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Japan to push child care, labor reforms to stem falling birthrate

64 Comments
By Takaya Yamaguchi

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64 Comments
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And where’s the evidence that any of these proposed reforms increase birth rates?

6 ( +25 / -19 )

Finally Japan realize that rising child is more than subsidy and cash handout, just bit decades late. Since expert already warn this trends decades ago but leader just won't listen.

https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Society/Japan-s-child-population-falls-for-42nd-straight-year-to-new-low

The labor reforms will allow workers to opt for a more flexible work style such as three days off each week, the sources, who sought anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media, told Reuters.

Further regulation to be adopted in fiscal 2024 will put a uniform cap on overtime. The new plan also aims for those who engage in care or undergo fertility treatment to hold down jobs.

Even if the government enact that new regulation in 2024 it will take some time to be adapted by most working place, many regulation only effect if the company with certain size, so for small medium company don't expect this being implemented.

Many things are nice in the paper like paternity leave that formally exist in official document, but if anyone really dare to take that it. They can get consequence from their working place.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/10/27/national/crime-legal/mufg-brokerage-manager-claims-paternity-harassment-led-unpaid-leave/

Officially Japan has longest paid holidays however, most of workers only take half of it. Again don't dare to take in full length of it.

https://www.tokyoreview.net/2018/07/japan-productivity-overwork/

-4 ( +14 / -18 )

The labor reforms will allow workers to opt for a more flexible work style such as three days off each week

Wonder if buchou will approve that.

-5 ( +15 / -20 )

Good, keep doing something..

Good luck Japan..

-9 ( +4 / -13 )

Like always, TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE.

-2 ( +19 / -21 )

hell of a lot of news comes from "....sources, who sought anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media..." either they'e being very naughty, or it's a propaganda scam.....

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Doubtless, this new policy of urging change will be just as effective as the revolutionary Premium Friday Campaign we had a few years ago.

All talk, no change, just a nice fat publicity campaign Bonanza for Dentsu.

-2 ( +14 / -16 )

And where’s the evidence that any of these proposed reforms increase birth rates?

How can there be any evidence of success or failure prior to them being implemented? Jumping the gun with your comments. (Again!)

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

The labor reforms will allow workers to opt for a more flexible work style such as three days off each week, the sources, who sought anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media, told Reuters.

The LDP will not enact reforms for decades to address wage theft and abuse, unpaid overtime, arbitrary age and sex discrimination but now wants labor reform to address the falling birthrate?

The LDP views workers as a resource, a commodity in the crudest sense and only will make vague gestrues to address their concerns when a threat to their bottom line looms on the horizon.

-5 ( +10 / -15 )

Ironic they choose a photo from the one prefecture that has a positive birthrate and doesnt need any incentives.

It WILL take the money for supporting the children!

4 ( +9 / -5 )

How can there be any evidence of success or failure prior to them being implemented?

Perhaps they’ve been tried in other countries? Perhaps they’ve been previously tried here in Japan (and failed)?

2 ( +7 / -5 )

These moves by the government underscore the weakness and timidity of Japan's labor unions.

Three day breaks, ending long hours, etc. why arent the unions demanding these things and threatening strikes if they don't get them?

I don't expect that many of the proposed measures will be legally binding and that Japan's employers will skirt them without punishment, as they do so often.

4 ( +13 / -9 )

An interesting take on this issue if anyone is interested:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kq2KNNd-LcM

In conclusion, there is no single answer to the falling birthrate, hence addressing only a select few areas by throwing money at it will not make a significant improvement on this topic.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

even France, with arguably some of the best gov assistance programs, is below replacement rate

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Anybody else as bored of all this as me?

-12 ( +5 / -17 )

Sounds like a good idea on paper. Because I don't see how this would stimulate couples to have children! I think women are HAVING children. But with the recent spate of young mothers secretly giving birth and ending their babies adds to the failing birth rate.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

It’s like shooting arrows at the stars, gunna take much more than that unfortunately Mr Prime Minister. The problems are just as interpersonal as they are structural and logistical. Yep, the hard stuff, actual people.

May wanna have a look at an education system that has turned the lifelong learning button off and delivered an army of detached souls that can’t think for themselves, huddle in small groups of three or four ( or one ) that struggle to express themselves, and have been trained NOT to take risks.

J Kids are just like any kids around the world, full of life, energy,laughter and questions, until they get fed into the system. Look at the 18 to 21 year olds that come out the other end.

Id start there. Radically reform education and in ten years you may see some results. But no, that would take long, sustained effort that no short term thinking politician seems capable of.

The rest is all arm pumping and fluff.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Japan has been experiencing a declining birthrate and an aging population for several decades. This trend poses challenges to the country's economy, labor force, and social security systems. The reasons behind Japan's declining birthrate are complex and multifaceted, including factors such as economic uncertainty, high cost of living, changing social dynamics, and a cultural shift away from traditional family values.

Addressing and reversing a declining birthrate is a long-term and complex process that requires comprehensive strategies and measures. While it may be a challenging task, it is not necessarily too late for Japan to take steps to mitigate the issue.

The government can implement policies that provide financial incentives and support for families to encourage childbearing. This can include measures such as increasing childcare services, improving parental leave policies, and offering tax benefits or subsidies for families with children.

Creating a better work-life balance is crucial to encourage young people to start families. Implementing policies that reduce long working hours, promote flexible work arrangements, and provide support for dual-income households can be beneficial.

Promoting gender equality is vital for encouraging women to balance careers and family life. Policies that provide equal opportunities for women in the workforce, improve access to affordable childcare, and promote shared parenting responsibilities can help create a more supportive environment for raising children.

Considering Japan's low birthrate and declining population, attracting skilled immigrants can be a potential solution. Implementing immigration policies that facilitate the entry and integration of foreign workers can help address labor shortages and contribute to the economy.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

The labor reforms will allow workers to opt for a more flexible work style such as three days off each week, the sources, who sought anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media, told Reuters.

Regardless of whether or not this will actually raise the birthrate, it is definitely good news. At the very least, 3 days off will boost productivity, which will boost the economy.

One thing they could do is put the whole population on Shakai Hoken. Currently, only full timers and their families get that. Others get Kokumin Hoken. Other measures could include the gov making children school supplies and meals free. Would make a difference. Just make it so that its not BACKBREAKING to have kids

1 ( +9 / -8 )

J Kids are just like any kids around the world, full of life, energy,laughter and questions, until they get fed into the system. Look at the 18 to 21 year olds that come out the other end.

I don't know about the 18 to 21 years olds, they seem to be having the most freedom of their entire lives by expressing themselves with fashion that would otherwise be seen as immature after a certain age based on societal norms, dyed hairs, skipping school, etc. It is the 22 and up you are thinking about, you know the ones in generic black suits and generic dark hair styles that society enforces if you want to be a shakai-jin?

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Asiaman7

And where’s the evidence that any of these proposed reforms increase birth rates?

Improved work/life balance will raise quality of life, which is one of the biggest reasons people put off having children.

The other big reason, of course, is financial. So, the govt needs to address the cost of raising children, such as dropping or loosening certain school requirements, such as randoseru (those tiny kids look ridiculous with those giant things on their back, anyway), JHS and HS uniforms, and the need for cram schools to pass entrance exams.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

They've been talking about this for years; had meetings, gone to lunches, all to do nothing.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

My mom looked after kids in the neighborhood and made extra money that way. My brothers and sisters and I literally grew up with 1-2 other kids from the neigbohood....but those were the times when you actually knew your neighbor. God forbid a kid get a scraped knee in Japan while being looked after by a non-registered caretaker..the police would raid the place and the caretaker would get arrested for sure. There is just no flexibility in this culture and society for new services to be created.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Japan has been experiencing a declining birthrate and an aging population for several decades.

And now every country in the west has the same problem.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

One thing they could do is put the whole population on Shakai Hoken. Currently, only full timers and their families get that. Others get Kokumin Hoken.

 

Both plans offer full health coverage. And Kokumin Hoken has lower premiums.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

They've been talking about this for years; had meetings, gone to lunches, all to do nothing.

And what is the west doing?

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Useless.

Until xenophobia is deleted and a practical, realistic immigration policy is instituted, Japan will continue to face all the challenges of a rapidly aging population.

-9 ( +4 / -13 )

I wonder what stage of grief Japan is at. They are past the 1st stage denial. Probably around the 70s 80s and 90s.

Then they got past the 2nd stage of denial, by blaming women and men around the 2000s to 2015ish. The bargaining stage (3) seems to be the present stage as they want to negotiate tax increases, work-life balance, some more light immigration, and some child care/leave. They may be in the depression zone too,(4) as they finally get closer to realizing nothing they do will change the situation. So close to acceptance. The final stage! Although there is a risk the Japanese gov will never reach stage 5. They'll get there in the end!

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

The maternal and paternal leave that Japan already has is not being used. This is due to societal pressure. Legislation will not make any difference. It is the culture that needs to change... And good luck with changing that in a few years.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

That highly probable can’t work, neither when also mothers and other young women now can (or will have to) more easily work , nor when men have now more time but have instead to use it to do more household work while now the partner or girlfriend is at the job and exhausted. Not to forget that four day working weeks or less overtime also means a dramatic loss of income for both of the couple in many cases. The problem simply is, even if paid like a five day week, you will have to distribute your money on three leisure days now, instead of formerly only two. That’s bringing a widespread frustration, but not more babies, I tell you better in advance. Maybe first someone should teach them about all that a bit more.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Too little too late. They have been talking about this continuously since I got here in 2005. And they’ve known about the problem since at least the 80’s. I’m not a sociologist or an economist but the global trend seems to be the wealthier a country becomes the less children, or non at all, couples have versus developing countries where couples have multiple children they can’t afford against their own best interests. Immigration is what other countries do to offset the birth deficit but this is Japan and unique to the rest of the world. But thanks Japan, I did my part and now my oldest says he wants to do college in the States and work there. Can’t blame him and I’m not going to try and stop him.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Here government guidelines stipulate a maximum of 15 hours of allowed overtime a week for a maximum 45 in a month which we all know is hardly adhered to.

So they are saying employees will have to fit all those official hours (and non paid ones on top of that) over less working days per week? /massive, massive face palm.

The only way to solve the working hour crisis here will be to adhere to international accepted norms of actually first achieving a 40 hour working week (absolutely no overtime allowed) and then to make those 40 hours more flexible over say 4 days instead of 5.

Then they can move on to reducing the 40 hour working week (after it is 40 hours in reality) to 35 or even less,as in many advanced economies AND allowing for more flexibility.

If not, good luck increasing that birthrate anytime soon Japan.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

They should also create incentives to get people to move back to the heartland and away from the major cities. Having space to live and quality of life might go a long way toward people wanting to raise kids.

Give companies tax incentives for allowing remote work, subsidized mortgage interest on homes in small towns, and stipends for travel to the cities when in-person meetings are required once a month or so. I'm just spitballing, I'm no policymaker. But some people smarter than me should be able to figure it out...

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Both plans offer full health coverage.

Shakai hoken pays 90% of medical bills; Kokumin koken, 70%.

Neither is, strictly speaking, full health coverage.

And Kokumin Hoken has lower premiums.

Depends on where you live, I think. Each local government sets its own premiums. And remember that the employer pays half of the premium on shakai hoken, so it seems less than it actually is.

Since he retired Mr cleo has been paying a lot more for kokumin hoken than he did for shakai.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Both plans offer full health coverage. And Kokumin Hoken has lower premiums.

But you pay more out of pocket which is why its not as good

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

They've been talking about this for years; had meetings, gone to lunches, all to do nothing.

And what is the west doing?

Depends on which country.

The west is not one big monolith. You need to travel more.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

Japan has been experiencing a declining birthrate and an aging population for several decades.

And now every country in the west has the same problem.

Pretty much every country in the west has IMMIGRATION

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

Shakai hoken pays 90% of medical bills; Kokumin koken, 70%.

This is incorrect.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

....and the need for cram schools to pass entrance exams.

You actually don't need to go to cram school in order to pass entrance examinations. That whole cram school system is giant scam and I know plenty of people who got into decent universities without ever going to scam school.

Their secret? Focused on study at school, while many of their classmates slept during class so could be fresh for evening cram school classes, many of which are now taught by part-time university students to save on costs.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

They've really missed the point on this one. People do not want to have children due to the financial burden and the insecurity of incomes and pension. There is also a huge lack of affordable daycare facilities. The cost of putting children through so-called 'free education' is astronomical. The costs of public junior and senior high school are ridiculous. Just the uniforms can cost ¥200,000-¥300,000 per year. Add to that the expense of club and sports equipment and you'll easily get another ¥200,000 per year. On top of this you have lunches and excursions. It might not seem much for one child but if you have two or three kids in high school it's a huge yearly cost. Most young people are on part-time or short term working contracts with no job security and low salaries. How do they expect them to be able to afford to have children? It was fine during the bubble when people blindly worked 100 hours a week for good money. now people are waking up and realising there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There are only low paying jobs with no security and no future prospects. 60% of the workforce are on these kinds of contracts. People will only have children if they can see a secure future.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

Disillusioned-

Hit the nail on the head

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

The vast majority of 15-18 are dependents who attend senior high school, so it makes sense to pay child benefit for them.

Other than that, I don't see much of significant benefit here. Good companies already treat their workers much better than government rules. Bad companies ignore existing labour laws and get away with treating their workers badly. There is little point in introducing new stricter rules that will not be enforced when necessary.

There are fewer young people every year, and an increasing proportion of them are rejecting marriage and not even interested in having relationships. This suggests that a few government sweeteners will not encourage folk to have babies with their non-existent partners.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

A 3-4 day work week would be excellent, but lets be realistic, that just wont happen. However, even 1 work from home day a week each would make our lives a hell of a lot easier, getting a bunch or chores done throughout the day, and leaving more quality time to spend with the kids in the evenings. Just my 2 cents.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

An interesting take on this issue if anyone is interested:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kq2KNNd-LcM

I've got this on now and yes, it's pretty good. Thanks for the suggestion.

One thing of note perhaps is that many young people today have been raised in families that were economically stable, but will feel incapable of recreating that same economic stability by themselves. Every other generation pretty much since the Industrial Revolution has been wealthier than the one before. Thanks to globalization, that is not the case any more. Okay, computers and big tvs are cheap, but big ticket costs, housing, utilities, pensions, food, health care (if your kids need cosmetic dental work :( ), .... all cost way more. The previous generation in Japan had lifetime employment, could afford a house, a stay at home wife, a car, jukus for their kids, to maintain that world-famous Japanese savings rate etc. You have to be on a very high salary now, probably 8-10 million yen or more in your mid 30s, to afford those things now. Town hall civil servants, "komuin" is a popular choice for graduates today due to its perceived job security, but very few komuin under 40 will be on 8 million yen. In the real world of Japan for Japanese people, that's a school vice principal's salary.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

A 3-4 day work week would be excellent, but lets be realistic, that just wont happen.

Passing the law would be a cinch. It's the IMPLEMENTATION that's not going to happen. Like paternity leave. Japan's is the most generous ON PAPER, but the buck stops there.

However, even 1 work from home day a week each would make our lives a hell of a lot easier, getting a bunch or chores done throughout the day, and leaving more quality time to spend with the kids in the evenings.

I hear you loud and clear. I currently work 6-7 days a week. Having 2 days off every week would be a step up for me.

Just my 2 cents.

Worth much more than that. Good post.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Window-dressing, key issue remains global competitiveness. Galapagos disconnected companies won't do well in today's global standards and values world.

As Downsizing & Consolidation, while missing out on new emerging markets, that's core problem, why confidence & all forms of investment MIA, including children sorely lacking.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You can’t social engineer without duplicity or dictatorial measures.

The birthrate is a market economic problem. The population is screaming with their reproductive organs that the economic burden of children now and in the future is outweighing any joy from children.

It will have to get worse before it gets better. Societal changes are generational and targeting dates is no better than targeting inflation goals. They are never achieved.

Embrace the falling birthrate. There is no other choice for another generation or two until society and work culture changes. Companies will eventually have to change to accept some of the economic burden when all else fails, or close when they have no one to hire.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It's worth noting that changing societal attitudes and cultural norms also play a significant role in addressing the declining birthrate in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The world doesn’t feel safe, and there’s little guarantee of financial security. This is why people don’t want children .

AI is “weird” and scary, climate change is dangerous and scary, wages have stagnated forever, war is in progress and could escalate. People are just too smart to have kids in this climate.

If the government addressed some of these key issues and assured people they were going to follow through, people would feel ready for kids.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Like so many have wisely pointed out, there are many, many obstacles that need to crossed before young people even begin to think about having children. In addition to the ones already mentioned I would add (1) the government’s endless catering to the elderly and (2) the expectation of the women to look after the parents in their old age, The former is relatively easier to solve than the latter but I doubt the government has the will to attempt either.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Still waiting for any major change.

Don't be fooled, Japan or any developed country, only women have the power to make more babies.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Present Kishida government achieved nothing as for general citizen after start of his regime.

Japanese government just repeat "reform" of word only.

Only large corporations and the state and ruling parties can benefit, general citizen have been exhausted and exploited during about three decades at least.

Japan cannot solve falling birthrate unless solving large distrust and unrest to the future but LDP government are only increasing distrust and unrest.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Promoting traditional straight heterosexual values will help and not pushing the gay and transgender grooming stuff like the US is doing.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Another take on this issue:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6s8QlIGanA&t=776s

"Birthgap -- Childless World".

Unfortunately this is a worldwide phenomenon, with Japan/Italy just leading the way.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Money has only a small effect on having babies.

Women need to feel secure and optimistic, and most of them think that it consists in is a place to live, capacity to buy luxury bags and spend time for traveling.

So nothing wil really happen. Expectations for modern ladies ard way too high.

Make survey about how many children on average women want and they would reply one or two, rarely three or more, and a significant minority none, even if they all had a wealthy situation and bright future ahead. I remind Total fertility Rate needs to reach 2.07 just for maintaining population. Light years away for many developed countries now. Whether just rich or very rich, like Qatar, UAE., etc

It has only to do with law giving choice for women to decide (when, how).

IMHO nature has created the first species able of self-destruction. Lol

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Children - they are the present and the future of Planet Earth.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Alrite

I remind Total fertility Rate needs to reach 2.07 just for maintaining population. Light years away for many developed countries now. Whether just rich or very rich, like Qatar, UAE., etc

Dont know what yer on but some of us believe in Japan.

Sure, 80 more light years and end of the pinstripes is gonna make it happen sooner but hey…

…what's that sayin again oh yea- …Girls Be ambitious

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment outside business hours.

Well, at least someone gets to go home on time.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

How about we just let whatever happens happen? Can we stop incentivizing having families with money? If you want a family, great. If you don’t, that’s great, too. Of course finances are an important factor when considering making a family. However, I don’t foresee any great advantages with throwing money at people to have kids. I just find it rooted in “put a bandaid on a gaping wound” logic.

of course, it is only my opinion and I’m wrong about a lot of things.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Recognizing that new parents need to be able to spend time caring for their babies seems like common sense to me. In parts of Scandinavia, either the Mother of Father can take a year off with pay to concentrate on child care. Whether or not that sort of thing helps with the birth rate I am not sure, but I think it would help. It also helps with the mental well being of the parents, who get to care for their child.

Here in California a mother gets 12 weeks off with some pay for giving birth. It is better than nothing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Tora

Than you for the Youtube link.

Although quite biased in a way about the effect, it is very eye opening.

My eyes have been opened as soon as I had the figures in front of me. Numbers don't lie. Birthgap will be the bane of many countries.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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