A government panel set up by the labor ministry on Wednesday gave approval to expanding the eligibility of women with children to use daycare centers from fiscal 2015 as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy to make it easier for working women.
The panel recommended setting the minimum number of work hours for mothers eligible to use daycare centers to between 48 hours and 64 hours per month, Sankei Shimbun reported.
Currently, use of daycare centers is limited to full-time working women and other women with special circumstances, such as those who are taking care of sick relatives or who have a disability.
According to the panel, under the new rules, all working women, including part-timers, as well as job seekers, mothers attending universities, and single mothers will be able to register their children for daycare centers, Sankei reported.
Abe has vowed to take steps, including expanding daycare, to help mobilize women power as part of his "Abenomics" plan to end economic stagnation and engineer growth in a country beset by an aging, shrinking population.
Abe has pledged to eliminate in five years daycare wait-lists - which official data put at 25,000 nationwide and private experts much higher. The plan is to provide fiscal support for non-government facilities and ease regulations to give private operators more scope.
Last May, Yokohama announced it had eliminated its daycare wait-list - four years ago the worst in the country - through deregulation and bigger spending.
Abe has touted Yokohama as a model case others should follow, but the national government and other municipalities may be reluctant to follow through with similar spending rises.© Japan Today/Reuters