• Kyodo

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The health ministry plans to introduce a new measure in fiscal 2018 that will prioritize children of day care workers for getting slots in nurseries, sources said.

The measure is designed to address the chronic shortage of day care staff and reduce the number of children on day care waiting lists.

It is estimated that some 800,000 people are qualified to work in day care centers but do not because they need to take care of their own children or for other reasons.

The government estimates 77,000 more day care workers will be needed by the end of fiscal 2020.

Until now, staff working at their local nursery schools were given preferential treatment by municipalities and allowed to enroll their children in local day care facilities.

Under the new measure, municipalities will also allow day care workers working outside their local areas to get their children into local preschools before other parents.

Additionally, nursery staff will be able to enroll their children in schools where they work. The practice is banned at many nursery schools due to concern that such mothers may favor their own children over those of others.

The number of children on public day care waiting lists rose for a third straight year in 2017 on the back of increasing female employment, according to recent government data.

The number of children awaiting enrollment in authorized day care facilities as of April was up 2,528 from a year earlier to 26,081, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said.

The government had planned to achieve full enrollment by March 2018 but it has since pushed that goal back to March 2021.

The day care shortage is more serious in big cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, which accounted for 72.1 percent of children awaiting enrollment, the ministry said. Seven prefectures, such as Aomori and Fukui, had no children on waiting lists.

In June, the ministry announced a fresh plan to create additional day care facilities for 320,000 children by the end of fiscal 2022.

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