01/23/2023, 14.33
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For Kishida, boosting the country’s birth rate is top priority

by Guido Alberto Casanova

In his policy speech to parliament, the prime minister said the government will focus on boosting the birth rate in 2023. Last year, only 800,000 births were recorded in the country. The Children and Families Agency is set to start in April. Plans include financial support for families with children, improved childcare, and better work-life balance for parents.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – At the start of the regular session of the Japanese parliament, which began today, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida gave a policy speech highlighting his government's priorities for the new year.

His address focused on the country’s decades-long demographic decline, which, in Kishida's words, is pushing Japan “on the brink of being unable to maintain social functions”. Boosting the birth rate will therefore be at the centre of government action in 2023.

Japan’s low birth crisis is well known, which has its origins in an outdated socio-economic model. Over the years, the situation has gradually worsened and the drop in the number of births last year was a warning sign; for the first time, the number of new born fell below the psychological barrier of 800,000.

This was not expected before 2030, which means that the country is aging at a much faster rate than thought. Last December a committee of experts set up by the government released a disturbing report, warning that the birth rate concerns "the survival of the nation".

For this reason, Prime Minister Kishida told lawmakers to make a greater effort. Using strong terms, he urged them to adopt policies that facilitate the raising of children, which is “the most effective investment for the future".

To reverse the falling birth rate, Kishida pledged to "create a children-first economy and society.” And after the much-anticipated Children and Families Agency becomes operational in April, the government aims to double spending on child support in 2023.

A few weeks ago, the prime minister instructed Masanobu Ogura, the minister responsible for implementing these policies, to begin studying an action plan. For the first time, the task force designed to come with new proposals met on Thursday with Ogura explaining in his opening address how these are a top priority for Kishida.

At his first news conference of the year, the Japanese prime minister laid out the three areas in which action will focus. The first involves direct financial support to families with dependent children, the second is meant to improve childcare, and the third seeks to help working parents find a better work-life balance.

The task force must be able to present its proposals by March, so that they can be included in the economic and fiscal policy papers set for June. Still, it is unclear how the government plans to secure annual public funding in this area of up to US$ 75 billion.

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