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The government decided Monday to aim to boost the country's nursery school capacity by roughly 140,000 children over the four years through fiscal 2024, hoping to address the issue of children waiting to enter authorized nurseries and other facilities for preschoolers.

The goal was included in a new child care program adopted at a Cabinet meeting the same day.

Under the new program, the government will also aim to reduce the number of children on the nursery waiting lists to zero as soon as possible.

The current child care program, adopted in 2017, aims to achieve the zero-waiting list target over the three years through fiscal 2020, which will end in March next year. This goal is unlikely to be achieved, as 12,439 children were still on such lists across the country as of April 1 this year, according to the welfare ministry.

Although the nationwide capacity exceeds the number of children wanting to enter nurseries, there remain many children on the waiting lists because applicants outnumber vacancies for some nurseries in urban areas, such as Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures.

The number of families looking to place their children in nurseries is expected to continue rising as the government has set a goal to raise the participation of women in the workforce to 82% by 2025 under its comprehensive strategy for regional revitalization.

The government plans to secure some ¥144 billion needed to implement the new program by asking private companies to chip in money for carrying out related measures and abolishing child benefits for high-income households.

Under the program, the government will support municipalities where demand for nurseries is increasing, for example, by raising the percentage of facility construction expenses covered with subsidies.

The program also included a plan to secure short-time workers who will help regular nursery school teachers.

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