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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 June 6 - 12  > Pro-business gov’t policies worsen declining birthrate problem
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2018 June 6 - 12 [SOCIAL ISSUES]
editorial 

Pro-business gov’t policies worsen declining birthrate problem

June 6, 2018

Akahata editorial

The number of babies born in Japan in 2017 hit a record-low of 946,060. This was shown in the Welfare Ministry’s statistics released last week. The total fertility rate (TFR), or the estimate of the average number of children that would be born per woman went down for two consecutive years to 1.43. Japan’s birthrate continues to decline and shows no sign of increasing. Young people in Japan feel it difficult to realize their wish to have children. If this situation remains unchanged, it will adversely affect the country’s future. In order to improve the situation and enable people to raise children without anxiety, it is necessary to switch political directions and drastically change government policies.

Less than one million babies for two years in row

The number of newborns in 2017 failed to reach one million for two straight years, with the figure in 2016 standing at 976,978. The number of births was the lowest in 2017 after the government started compiling data in 1899. This result highlights the fact that the fertility rate problem is worsening in Japan.

The TFR in 2017 decreased by 0.01 point from a year earlier. This falls far short of reaching 2.07, the level at which a country’s population remains stable. The rate for Japan is way lower than the 1.92 for France, 1.85 for Sweden, and 1.79 for Britain. The Abe government in the fall of 2015 announced a plan to promote “Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens” and set a goal of increasing the birthrate to 1.8 by 2025, which is believed by many to be difficult to achieve.

The Abe government recently released a policy under which it will use a part of the revenues from the consumption tax hike scheduled for October 2019 for free education and free childcare programs. However, the amount of the transfer from the consumption tax is small and the government intends to limit the scope of families eligible for the free childcare, arousing public distrust. The government is also facing public anger as it is reluctant to reduce the number of children on waiting lists for admission to childcare facilities as shown by the fact that the government postponed the deadline for realizing a “zero waiting list”.

The Abe government appears to be reluctant to put into action its proposal for the “Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens”. Facing this situation, the need is to build a government which takes steps towards a drastic reduction in financial burdens associated with child-rearing and the improvement of child-rearing support systems. In order to achieve this, this government will secure financial resources through various means such as the imposition of a fair share of taxes on large corporations enjoying huge profits. On the other hand, it is vital to resolve the issue of the shortage of authorized childcare centers and other child-rearing-related problems.

Liberal Democratic Party Executive Acting Secretary-General Hagiuda Koichi recently said, “The idea of men helping to raise children is widely touted as cool. However, it is a bad idea for children.” The Abe government’s stance allowing for such a remark, which is supposedly based on traditional views on motherhood and conflicts with the concept of gender equality, should be called into question.

The “work-style reform” package bill which the Abe government seeks to enact in the current Diet session will create a society that will make it difficult to raise children. Even now, many workers are struggling to balance work and home due to excessively long working hours. Nevertheless, what the government intends to do is to introduce a “highly professional” work system eliminating all work hour rules and make it legal to force workers to work overtime up to the so-called “karoshi (death from overwork) line”. The government-proposed “work-style reform” will exacerbate the current unfriendly climate for rearing children. To create a society where everyone can have a decent life with an eight-hour work day by scrapping the “work-style reform” bill and achieving decent working conditions is the most pressing task. This will serve as a basis to build a society where people can raise children without financial anxieties.

For a society where dreams come true

Japan’s falling birthrate has emerged as a serious consequence of the Abe government’s big business-oriented policies. The government and business circles are irrationally trying to use the term “lower fertility rate” and “shrinking population” to force the general public to accept higher consumption tax rates and cuts in welfare services. An immediate and urgent goal is to establish a government under which everyone can live life full of hope without fear.

Past related articles:
> Gov’t should make serious efforts to stem Japan’s declining birthrate [June 21, 2017]
> Create policies in the public interest for ending declining birthrate [June 10, 2015]
> Child birthrate decreasing while non-regular workers increasing [June 4, 2013]

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