• Kyodo

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As the government steps up work to realize the ruling party’s election promise of building more nurseries and making them free, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked companies on Friday to shoulder part of the funds needed to expand child-care support.

“I’d like to ask the industry circle to contribute around ¥300 billion,” Abe told a meeting of a government panel on human resources development.

Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, the country’s most powerful business lobby, which is also known as Keidanren, told reporters that industry “ought to extend an appropriate level of cooperation,” hinting at his acceptance of the ¥300 billion request.

The sum would be part of a policy package worth ¥2 trillion Abe has proposed in a broader drive to foster human resources. He also repeated his intention to draw up the package.

In campaigning for the recent Lower House election, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party sought voter approval for a plan to increase spending on child care and preschool education by diverting some of the revenue intended to pay down government debt from the consumption tax hike in 2019.

Of the revenue from the hike to 10 percent from 8 percent, some ¥1.7 trillion is expected to be used to make preschool education and day care services free.

The government plans to secure the remaining ¥300 billion by asking companies to shoulder it as employer contributions. The sum from employers will be spent to increase the number of nursery schools as Abe aims to eliminate waiting lists for such facilities.

“Like higher wages, improving the child-rearing environment is something that is being demanded by society,” economic and fiscal policy chief Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters as he expressed hope to secure cooperation from big business.

The Abe administration has been stepping up efforts to encourage companies hoarding cash to spend more on wages and capital investment.

On Thursday, Abe called on companies to achieve a 3 percent increase in salaries during wage negotiations next spring, making such a request for the fifth straight year.

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