• Kyodo

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At least 27 percent of nursery schools in Japan are in need of psychological support for their staff, a government survey showed Sunday,

The report comes at a time when the government is trying to reduce the number of children on nursery school waiting lists, an issue that has caused widespread discontent among the nation’s working parents.

The ratio of nursery schools which do not provide appropriate support services for mentally stressed staff such as consultation assistance totaled 58 percent, with private nursing schools faring even worse.

The survey conducted by a research team at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in February and March involved 10,000 randomly selected facilities, including some that were not certified, of which 2,672 responded.

The results of the survey come in the wake of the Japanese government’s announcement that it has set a new goal to reduce the number of children on nursery school waiting lists to zero by the end of fiscal 2020.

As nursery school staff tend to face increased psychological pressure in ensuring the safety of children and in dealing with parents, providing support for them is necessary, as well as raising the salaries of underpaid staff.

In the survey, 719 operators of nursery schools, about 27 percent of those responding, said they believe their facilities have staff in need of mental health care or actually had staff who received treatment.

Of these, 502 facilities said they have one staffer who needs such support, while eight said they have more than five staff members who require such support.

When asked whether they have support services for stressed nursery school staff, 1,540 facilities, or 58 percent of respondents, said they do not have such a system.

Some 77 percent of publicly certified nursery schools have such a system, while only 25 percent to 41 percent of privately operated or other facilities are so equipped.

In a questionnaire asking 3,457 nursery school staff about the emotional burdens they have experienced in the past year, 56 percent said they consulted with colleagues, while 12 percent said they could not seek help from anyone.

When asked whether they want to keep working at the same facility, 55 percent of respondents said yes they want to keep working at their current workplace as nursery school staff, while 22 percent said they want to move to other facilities if there are better employment conditions. Still, some 7 percent said they wanted to quit the industry.

“There are some small facilities which cannot deal with mental health issues,” said Joji Yoshizawa, a lecturer at the Jikei University School of Medicine and a member of the research team.

Yoshizawa said there is a need for local governments to provide assistance through such means as offering consultation services, especially for uncertified nursery schools.

Amid a shortage of nursery school facilities, a welfare ministry tally showed 23,553 children were on waiting lists as of April last year.

In late May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a three-year delay in the government’s goal of eliminating long waiting lists for day care centers, an issue that has captured media attention amid a flood of pleas from working parents.

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