National

This year's extended Golden Week holiday in Japan is a headache for many working parents

Kyodo

The Golden Week holiday period, extended to 10 days this year due to events surrounding the Imperial succession, has left working parents who are unable to take the entire time off in limbo, as most nurseries and kindergartens will be closed.

Many people working in medical and nursing care services, tourism and other industries will have to work right through the break, which will begin Saturday, April 27, and run through Monday, May 6.

Some municipalities are scrambling to assess the feasibility of making extra provisions.

“It looks like I’ll have to work since it will be a busy period,” said a 36-year-old female employee of an accounting office in Sendai. Her husband also expects he will have to work through the holiday, while the nursery school that their 4-year-old daughter attends plans to close for the entire period.

“Small companies can’t afford to close for 10 straight days. The government should have been more considerate of working people who leave their children with others when it decided to create the extended holiday,” the woman said. “The feeling is it made light of the situation as if to say, ‘Someone will do something.'”

The Diet passed a bill in December to designate May 1, when Crown Prince Naruhito, 58, accedes the Imperial Throne, a one-off national holiday.

With April 29 and May 3 to 6 already assigned as national holidays in 2019, April 30 and May 2 then became holidays because the law stipulates that any weekday sandwiched by national holidays itself becomes a holiday.

Complaints about this year’s Golden Week have been growing online. Some say they are unable to leave children with their grandparents because they also work or live too far away.

Some child care centers and kindergartens open on Saturdays but close on Sundays and holidays.

Although some local governments will, if booked in advance, take in children at designated child care centers that are opened specifically for holidays, the number of available staff is limited.

The committees in both houses of the Diet that deliberated on the bill creating the 10-day holiday adopted an additional resolution urging the government to “take all possible measures to avoid any trouble in the life of the people,” including child care services.

But an official in charge at the Cabinet Office said, “It’s difficult for the government to introduce unified countermeasures.”

As municipal governments are responsible for overseeing authorized child care centers, the official said, local governments should devise their own solutions.

But an official with the Kumamoto Municipal Government said, “Nothing really has been decided by us. It would help if the government laid out a course of action.”

Some other local authorities, including Tokyo’s Toshima Ward, are considering the expansion of temporary services.

While more than 5,000 children are routinely looked after at day care centers in Toshima Ward, only 40 are accepted during the holiday. “We are studying if we can open more facilities as an exception” during the 10-day holiday, a Toshima official said.

A key question is whether enough child care workers can be procured.

A social welfare corporation operating authorized child care centers nationwide is set to accept children, if requested, during the period. “We have to manage somehow,” said a company official.

Mika Ikemoto, a senior researcher at the Japan Research Institute, said the central government should “proactively” adopt countermeasures in cooperation with local governments “without leaving the matter to parents and care facilities.”

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