National / Social Issues

Government to support matchmaking, men's child-rearing to raise birthrate

Kyodo

The government plans to devise a series of measures to fight the nation’s low birthrate, such as promoting matchmaking and setting numerical targets for increasing men’s participation in child care, according to a draft policy outline obtained Thursday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet is expected to approve the draft, which also includes enhanced support for families with three or more children, later this month.

The draft outline calls for intensive efforts over the next five years through 2020, saying that Japan faces a “critical situation” where the dwindling number of children could shake its societal and economic foundation.

The government plans to increase the percentage of men taking paternity leave immediately after the birth of a child to 80 percent by 2020, and the percentage of men taking paternity leave for childrearing to 13 percent in 2020 from 2.03 percent in fiscal 2013, the draft said.

It also plans to support local governments offering speed dating and other forms of matchmaking. And it seeks to increase the share of local governments supporting residents’ marriage, pregnancy, child-bearing and child-rearing in a seamless manner from the current 14 percent, or 243 municipalities, to over 70 percent.

Other measures include expanding the scope of free nursery care and establishing fertility treatment counseling centers in all the prefectures and major cities in the nation.

In Japan, the fertility rate — the average number of children a woman will have over her lifetime — began falling from 4.54 in 1947 to as low as 1.26 percent in 2005. It recovered slightly in recent years, standing at 1.43 in 2013.

Japan could have a population of about 100 million in 2060 if it raised the fertility rate to 1.8 by 2030 and to 2.07 by 2040, according to the government’s long-term population vision compiled late last year.

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