• Kyodo

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About 70 percent of municipal governments see few prospects for labor shortages improving at day care centers because teachers and other staff will remain underpaid even after a wage hike planned for April, a Kyodo News survey found Monday.

Monthly wages for nurses will rise 2 percent, or close to ¥6,000, and mid-level staff will get a chance to receive a wage hike of up to ¥40,000 per month. Even so, the incomes of both will remain lower than those in other occupations.

As of April last year, more than 23,000 children were on waiting lists for day care centers nationwide.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government will compile new plans in June to resolve the issue, but the results of the survey show it may be an uphill battle because day care centers won’t be able to hire enough staff even if more facilities are added.

The survey, conducted in February, covered 84 municipal governments in Tokyo and other major cities that had more than 100 children on wait lists as of April 2016.

Of the responding municipalities, 58, or 69 percent, said the labor shortage will likely persist even after the wage hike, versus 14, or 17 percent, that expect the measure to solve the problem.

The Niigata Municipal Government is in the pessimistic group.

“The labor environment needs to be improved entirely,” it said.

Others include the city of Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, which called the wage hike “insufficient,” and Takamatsu in Kagawa Prefecture, which said, “Further improvement is needed to dissolve disparities with other occupations.”

According to a labor ministry survey in 2016, nurses on average earned ¥216,000 a month excluding bonuses and overtime. That’s ¥90,000 below the average for all industries.

Work at day care facilities “is hard despite the cheap basic wage,” the city of Osaka pointed out in the survey.

Under the government measure, wages for all employees at private nurseries will be hiked 2 percent in April.

In addition, ¥40,000 will be added to the monthly salary of mid-level staff with at least seven years or more of experience if they complete training courses offered by prefectural governments.

But some employees are concerned the mid-level wage hike will generate new disparities because it only applies to a third of the industry’s staff.

Hiromi Machida, a 50-year-old day care teacher in Tokyo with 30 years of experience, said she is upset despite the measure because many facilities are understaffed and many employees will not be able to take the training courses to qualify for the pay rise.

Since the hike affects only one in three employees, “This could trigger friction at the workplace,” Machida said.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which has many children waiting for day care slots, began hiking monthly wages by ¥21,000 last April, which will bringing the total rise in wages to ¥44,000 this April.

But not all municipalities can afford to engage in such fiscal spending, and this is causing an outflow of day care teachers from areas around wealthier municipalities.

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