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The number of children waiting to get into publicly certified nursery schools reached a record 48,356 as of October, up 2,298 from a year earlier, as the economic downturn has prompted more parents to work, government data show.

The figure was the highest since comparable data began to be collected in 2001, when there were 37,191 children on waiting lists nationwide.

More than 30 percent of such children live in the 19 designated cities with a population of at least 500,000, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

“Hit by the economic slump, people are cutting short their child care leave to return to work earlier, while more and more housewives are taking on jobs,” a ministry official said.

The government is increasing the number of nursery schools but demand overwhelms supply at present, according to the ministry.

The number of children on the waiting list for publicly certified nursery schools was the highest in Tokyo at 11,499, followed by 2,695 in Okinawa and 1,943 in Saitama Prefecture.

In contrast, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures had no children on waiting lists.

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