Childcare scheduled to become free of charge from October
A new law, taking effect on October 1st this year, guarantees free childcare to all children 3 to 5 years of age.
The new law provides free kindergarten, daycare and nursery school to all 3 to 5 years
old children regardless of the family income, if both parents work. Infants and toddlers 0 to 2 years of age get free nursery center care if the family income is so low that they incur no income tax.
According to the new law, the basic fee for the nursery or daycare is covered, but the parents need to pay for the school-provided pick-up of the child when applicable, and the cost of meals and school events. These costs vary from one municipality to another, and also between the schools. Parents should check the website of the municipality they live for information and fill in possible application documents.
On the other hand, there is a shortage of nursery and daycare staff. The number of nursery centers is increasing but some centers cannot open because they can’t find the necessary staff.
Because of the services are becoming free, it’s expected that many parents want to enroll their children to daycare or nursery, but the current situation is that only the system has advanced without securing the availability of the childcare staff.
The date the new law takes effect is the same as the scheduled hike of the consumption tax from 8 to 10 percent. According to the Japanese government, part of the consumption tax increase will be used to secure financial resources for free childcare.
The government’s goal is to have zero children on waiting lists because they want to raise the participation of women in the workforce to 80% or more to ease the labor shortage. In Japan, it is common that women in their 30s to 40s drop off from the labor-force because of pregnancy and childbirth. To solve the dilemma, it is necessary to create an environment where parents can take care of their children while continuing to work.
However, the current situation is that parents can consider themselves lucky if they find a nursery or daycare that can take their child in. In many cases, parents can’t choose the school nearest their home, so some parents have to work shortened hours because the school is far from their home and working places. Japan has a problem with the declining birth rate and aging population. People hope that the new measures would make it easier to raise children.