After Japanese Prime Minister YukioHatoyama’s debut on the international stage last week at the UnitedNations General Assembly in New York, the premier is back home totackle daunting tasks. One of the most intractable problems his countryis facing is its falling birthrate.
Japan’s population could shrink by25 percent by 2050 if the birthrate does not increase, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
PrimeMinister Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan won an overwhelmingelection victory last month, breaking more than 50 years of almostuninterrupted rule by the Liberal Democratic Party. In an attempt tobring the birthrate back to a sustainable level, the new government haspromised to ease the expense of raising children in this island nation.
According to government minister Mizuho Fukushima, previousadministrations “have been weak on providing financial support eventhough they have taken steps to tackle the daycare shortage problems.”Now, Japan “is going to provide childcare support as much as it can tocreate a society where Japanese people can have a dream of raisingchildren,” Bloomberg quoted him as saying.
Mr. Hatoyama has vowed to spend 16.8 trillion yen ($186 billion) to pull the country out of its economic slump in a package that includes provisions such as tuition aid and child support to make raising children easier.
Families would receive 13,000 yen ($144) a month per child under 15 in the year beginning April 2010 and 26,000 yen a month the following year if his plan is approved.
Ms.Fukushima, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), saysmonthly allowances are not enough on their own. She says that more than30,000 children are on daycare center waiting lists so money is neededto provide more childcare. She says requiring health insurance to coverfertility treatments may also be a good idea.