• Kyodo

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The government has drawn up a ¥2 trillion stimulus package to assist children from low-earning families in receiving higher education and expand the scope of free child care services.

The package, currently in draft form, will be a pillar of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s initiative to foster human resources and improve Japan’s productivity as the aging nation battles to maintain its competitiveness.

Targeting students from low-income households that are exempt from paying the residence tax, the government aims to start giving financial support in April 2020 if they wish to go to a university, vocational school or other institution, according to the draft plan.

Tuition at public universities, for instance, would be exempt under the plan.

Expanded child care support is another key piece of the package that the Cabinet is expected to approve Friday after consultations with the ruling bloc.

Children between 3 and 5 years old would become eligible for free education at nursery schools and kindergartens regardless of household income. Child care services would be provided for free if children aged 2 and younger come from low-income households that are exempted from paying the residence tax.

To fund the ¥2 trillion scheme, the government is aiming to secure ¥1.7 trillion by using revenue from the planned consumption tax hike in 2019 to 10 percent, while the corporate sector will contribute the remaining ¥300 billion.

The package is expected to call for raising pay for nursery school teachers by around ¥3,000 a month, at a time when the administration has yet to eliminate waiting lists for nursery schools.

Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner, has been calling for free education at private high schools, a pledge that it made during campaigning for the Lower House election in October.

The government is expected to agree to Komeito’s request, even though it needs to find a funding source.

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