The Japanese government approved Tuesday a bill to promote the enrollment of children at nursery schools beyond their own municipalities to address serious day care shortages that have put tens of thousands on waiting lists.
In Japan, parents can in principle apply for their children's enrollment only at day care facilities in the municipalities where they live. But the bill to revise the law on child care support will facilitate enrollment in wider areas through coordination with neighboring local governments.
In that way, children who cannot find a slot in preschools nearby can enroll at day care facilities in adjacent municipalities or areas near their parents' workplaces if there are vacancies.
More than 26,000 children were awaiting enrollment in authorized daycare facilities in Japan as of April 2017, up for the third straight year, on the back of increasing female employment in a country struggling with labor shortages, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Specifically, the bill stipulates that prefectural governments will serve as a facilitator in coordinating preschoolers' enrollment and set up a council with municipal officials in charge of day care services, nursery school operators and experts.
The council to address children on waiting lists will also discuss plans to increase day care facilities as well as train and secure nursery staff.
The government aims to have the bill enacted during the current Diet session and put it into force on April 1.
The envisioned legislation will also boost financial contributions by businesses for operating preschools by raising the upper limit in stages. The nation's most powerful business association has accepted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's request for corporations to increase such spending by about 300 billion yen ($2.7 billion).
Of the boosted contributions, 100 billion yen is planned to be allocated for preschools operated by businesses to mainly cater to their workers' children.
The bill will also set up a new framework in which the welfare ministry and other authorities will assist municipalities with severe day care shortages.