• Kyodo

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The government plans to encourage the operators of child care facilities to raise salaries to tackle the chronic shortage of day care workers and access, government sources said Thursday.

Under a measure to be introduced in fiscal 2017, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry intends to prioritize budget allocations for facilities that raise base salaries, in the hope that higher, stabler incomes will help prevent people from quitting, the sources said.

The government has already said it plans to raise the average monthly salary for day care workers by around ¥6,000 and that of experienced workers by around ¥40,000 starting in fiscal 2017. But it is also looking at additional steps, fearing the funds it will provide to the operators could be used for bonuses rather than base salaries. Using the money for bonuses makes sense to operators who are looking to keep labor costs low.

The average salary for a day care worker is about ¥220,000 a month, roughly ¥110,000 lower than the national average for all occupations. This is one of the main reasons for the staff shortage that has made it difficult to increase the number of child care facilities.

The shortage of facilities has left many children without day care places, preventing mothers from seeking employment or resuming work after maternity leave.

As of last April, the number of children who could not be placed in public day care around the country stood at around 23,000, almost unchanged from the year before, despite government efforts to resolve the long waiting lists, according to a yet-to-be-released survey by the ministry.

The ministry plans to unveil the new measures when it officially discloses the survey results in September and to hold meetings with municipalities to discuss issues and measures for dealing with the shortage of places.

The set of new measures also includes those to encourage municipalities to adopt systems under which places at public day care centers can be reserved so children can attend as soon as parental leave ends after a year.

Legally, parents are allowed to take child care leave until their children reach their first birthdays, but they frequently cut it short as they try to enroll their children in day care centers in April, the start of the year for such facilities, believing it is the only chance to secure a slot.

The government hopes that the reservation system will help alleviate worker shortages because caring for 1-year-old children requires fewer staff than for infants less than 12 months old.

The government is also considering allowing children in small day care centers that can only take in children under 3 to transfer to nursery schools for older children in an easier way.

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