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A bill allowing employees with children under age 3 to work fewer hours and avoid overtime cleared the Diet on Wednesday.

Companies will be required to introduce a system in which employees raising young children can work about six hours a day and have the choice of not working overtime.

Until now, companies have been allowed to choose from several options, including fewer work hours, overtime exemptions and installation of a nursery.

The new law allows both parents to take a leave of absence until their child turns 14 months old, up from the current period of 1 year.

It also features creating a nursing care system in which employees can take five to 10 days a year to help family members.

Companies that violate the revised law will receive instructions or warnings from prefectural labor bureaus and their names will be publicized if they ignore the instructions.

The changes won unanimous approval by the Upper House after clearing the Lower House on June 16 with similar support.

The original bill was amended by the ruling and opposition camps to enhance measures to prevent unfair layoffs of workers with young children in the current recession.

Komeito’s platform

New Komeito has outlined its platform for the coming general election, promising to beef up child care measures and support for low-income households, according to party members.

The junior partner in the ruling coalition is expected to approve the platform at a meeting of party executives Thursday.

The platform includes making kindergartens and nurseries free of charge; extending the age limit for child care benefits to the third year in junior high school, up from the current sixth grade in elementary school; doubling the amount of child benefits; and introducing a tax exemption plan with cash stipends for low-income households, according to the party members.

The free kindergartens and nurseries would be provided to children for three years before they enter elementary school. According to an education ministry study panel, this policy alone would cost around ¥790 billion.

Because government spending on current child care benefits is expected to reach ¥1 trillion in fiscal 2009, finding the money to pay for these proposals would require a significant reallocation of resources.

New Komeito will also pledge to reduce or exempt tuition for high school students who face financial difficulties by staying in school and to introduce scholarships that would not have to be repaid.

On foreign relations, the party wants to strengthen the drive for nuclear nonproliferation and Japan’s leadership role in developing a new international framework to fight climate change, according to the party members.

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