• Jiji

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The Japanese government is considering boosting the capacity of the country’s authorized nurseries and other facilities for preschoolers by some 120,000 over the four years from fiscal 2021, it was learned Saturday.

It is seeking to raise the total nursery capacity to some 3.37 million by the end of fiscal 2024. The goal will be included in the government’s new child care policy to be compiled by March next year, informed sources said.

According to the welfare ministry, 12,439 children were on nursery waiting lists as of April 1 this year. The total nursery capacity currently stands at 3,135,000 against 2,842,000 applicants. The capacity is expected to increase to 3,247,000 by the end of fiscal 2020.

However, in reality, the country is seeing children on waiting lists because the number of applicants has been larger than expected in urban areas, including in Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures.

In its current child care policy compiled in fiscal 2017, the government pledged to resolve the issue of waiting lists in the three years through fiscal 2020. But the task is far from complete.

Meanwhile, as the government aims to raise women’s participation in the workforce to 82 percent by 2025 from 77.7 percent in 2020 under its comprehensive strategy for regional revitalization, the number of families looking to place their children in nurseries is expected to continue rising, mainly in metropolitan areas.

The government sees it as necessary to further increase the number of nurseries in response to the expected rise in working women.

The planned child care policy is also expected to include measures to improve working conditions for nursery school teachers, the sources said.

Among municipalities with children waiting to enter nurseries, those with growing or steady populations, and those that are seeing a decrease in their populations but an increase in children on waiting lists, will get enhanced aid under the new program, according to the sources.

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