A year since a blog post by an anonymous mother struggling to find a nursery school drew national attention, parents are still having difficulties finding facilities for young children.
As day care centers have started announcing admissions results for April, many parents have expressed anger and sorrow on social networks after learning of denials.
In late January, a 35-year-old woman in Kawasaki shed tears when she received a letter from the city saying her 8-month-old daughter would not be admitted.
The woman had moved to the city from Tokyo, believing it would be easier in Kawasaki to keep working while raising her daughter, as only six children were on the city’s waiting list for nursery schools as of April last year.
But in reality, 2,547 children who were attending uncertified facilities subsidized by the city or staying home with their parents were waiting to get in to the certified schools, although they did not appear on the waiting list.
“I want to work as early as possible for a living,” said the woman, who was aiming to return to work this spring. “As uncertified facilities are expensive, I have to start thinking about moving out again.”
Last March, the government announced emergency steps to address the chronic shortage after an emotional blog post written by an anonymous mother went viral.
The author said she would have to quit her job in the post from February 2016 titled, “I couldn’t get day care. Die Japan!”
The government measures include increasing slots at small nursery schools as well as expanding nursery facilities at businesses. It also plans to increase monthly salaries for workers at child care facilities from April.
But local governments are still struggling to improve the situation. On Jan. 26, the city of Okayama sent 1,734 letters notifying parents that their children were denied admission to nursery schools.
Since then, city officials have been tied up responding to phone calls and inquiries asking about vacancies, while some complained that they could not extend their child care leave.
In late January, a group of parents in Tokyo started posting their feelings on Twitter and other social networks with the hashtag, “#I want nursery admission.”
Because the negative phrase from the blog post was criticized last year, a different approach has been taken by the group, said 41-year-old Tae Amano, a key member.
One tweet called on the state to “please stop bullying mothers,” while another posting said, “I feel that parents and children are rejected altogether every year.”
“To tell the truth, I want to spend all my time (with my son) but I cannot live without working,” a single mother of a 2-month-old son said in a posting.
Amano’s group is planning to launch a campaign to collect signatures online and hold an event near the Diet building on March 7.
“I would like mothers and fathers to speak out,” Amano said. “By linking people who are involved, we’d like to influence the nation’s child care policies.”
According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, around 23,500 kids were on the waiting list for certified day care services in April last year.
But the ministry said some 67,300 more children were potentially waiting to enroll, as the figure does not include parents who are on child care leave.