National / Social Issues

More than 55,000 children wait for nursery school places in Japan as lists grow for third straight year

JIJI

The number of children on nursery school waiting lists as of Oct. 1 last year grew 7,695 from a year before to 55,433, up for the third straight year, the welfare ministry has said.

In March 2017, the ministry expanded the scope of the waiting lists to include cases in which parents decided not to return to work and extended parental leave because they could not find nurseries with enough space to accept their children.

The number of children on the lists increased by 29,352 from the levels seen as of April 1, 2017, the ministry said Wednesday. Ministry officials noted that many nurseries and other child care facilities open in April, the first month of the fiscal year.

There are usually more children on waiting lists in October than in April, as vacancies tend to decrease after spring when more parents return to work after parental leave.

The waiting lists tend to be especially long in urban areas. Yokohama had 1,877 children on waiting lists, the largest figure among all municipalities, followed by the city of Saitama with 1,345 and the city of Osaka with 1,335.

The number of children aged up to 2 years old waiting on the lists was 52,285, or some 90 percent of the total. Of that figure, 23,480 were 1 or 2 years old.

The government aims to eliminate the need for waiting lists by increasing the number of spaces at nurseries and other facilities by a total of 320,000 by the end of March 2021.