Bringing bold support to the younger generation for the education of children

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To help young people have the hope of marrying and raising children, it is important to boldly expand child-rearing support programs and ease the financial burdens that come with it.

The number of births in Japan in the first six months of 2022 fell to 384,942, down 20,000 from the same period a year earlier, according to preliminary figures compiled by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs. If this trend continues, the annual tally will likely fall below last year’s all-time high of 810,000.

The population of the younger generation of childbearing and childrearing age has shrunk due to the long-term decline in the country’s birth rate. The lower number of births this year was probably also influenced by the fact that there are fewer opportunities for young people to meet potential partners, as they have been asked to refrain from going out in the middle of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Another related factor is the growing reluctance of young people to marry and have children.

At a meeting of the government’s expert group on building a social security system that can better meet the needs of all generations, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the drop in the number of births was a ” critical situation, as the pace has accelerated about seven years ahead of estimates.To maintain the vitality of society and the economy, it is essential to curb this accelerating trend.

The key is to provide support to the younger generation who are planning to eventually marry and have children. There is a need to analyze how young people perceive these life events and the economic conditions they face so that effective measures can be implemented.

According to a survey of singles and married couples conducted last year by the National Institute for Population and Social Security Research, the average number of children desired among single women aged 18 to 34 was at 1.79, dropping below 2 for the first time since the start of the survey. The figure among their male counterparts also hit an all-time high of 1.82.

It is true that values ​​in life have diversified in recent years, with more and more people not wishing to get married, for example. Still, it is worrying that young people are less willing to have children.

The survey also showed that the average number of children considered ideal by married couples was 2.25, but the average number of children they actually had was only 1.90. When asked why there was such a gap between their ideal and their reality, the most common answer was “because raising children and education is too expensive”, chosen by 53% of respondents.

Japan is going through a long period of low economic growth and the incomes of young people have not increased. It is important that the government encourages the transition from non-regular to regular employment and helps to raise the wages of the younger generation. It is also hoped that the government will create an environment in which it is easier for households raising children to live, for example by providing financial support for their housing.

Helping women to have children without worrying about the cost is an urgent task. The government is considering increasing the lump sum for childbirth and child rearing, which is currently set at 420,000 yen per child in principle. Given the severe decline in the country’s birth rate, the government should also consider a program to make childbirth costs free.

Kishida pledged that the government would “double in the future” budgets for children.

The Prime Minister’s determination is understandable, but how does he think that stable financial resources can be guaranteed for this purpose? The society as a whole must deepen discussions on this issue, with a view to increasing the consumption tax.

(From Yomiuri Shimbun, September 17, 2022)

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