• Kyodo

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The number of children waiting to enter day care facilities rose in April as surging demand outstripped an increase in openings, the government said Friday.

The number of unsuccessful applications for day care spots stood at 23,553, climbing 386 from a year ago and marking the second consecutive yearly increase.

Waiting lists grew despite the creation of roughly 95,000 more day care slots this year, according to a report by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The ministry also reported there were 67,354 other children who were unable to get into day care but were excluded from the official tally because their parents took child care leave or for other reasons. The figure was up about 8,000 from the previous year.

According to the report, 386 municipalities had wait-listed children, up 12 from last year, with 74.3 percent of them in urban areas.

Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward had the greatest number of wait-listed children at 1,198, followed by the city of Okayama at 729, and Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, at 559, the report said.

The ranks could grow further because the ministry is planning to consolidate the cases to be covered by the tally, which currently varies among municipalities.

For its official counts, the ministry has allowed municipal governments to decide whether to include cases where parents have only signed up for one specific day care facility, have taken child care leave, have successfully entered day care establishments certified by municipalities, or have stopped applying for jobs.

The latest report, which disclosed the unofficial count in each municipality for the first time, showed that Yokohama had the greatest number of children who were denied entry to day care but excluded from the official count, with 3,110. Yokohama was followed by neighboring Kawasaki with 2,547.

Nagoya, Kyoto and Kitakyushu all had more than 500 such children, but none on their official tallies.

The ministry, which had planed to create 500,000 additional slots over a five-year period ending in fiscal 2017, said it now expects to surpass that by 30,000 slots.

The ministry said it will also push for pay hikes for day care staff.

There were 2.72 million day care slots nationwide as of April.

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