(Mainichi: March 11, 2016 – p. 5)
By Ai Yokota, Kei Sato
The ruling parties began compiling emergency measures on Mar. 10 to deal with children on waiting lists to enroll in childcare facilities. This is because a furious blog posting by a mother whose child failed to get admission to any childcare facility has triggered widespread discontent among mothers and the ruling parties fear that this may have an adverse effect on the House of Councillors election this summer. Although the Abe administration has taken steps to open more childcare facilities under the slogan of “zero waiting list,” the opposition parties are critical of the government.
Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi indicated at a liaison meeting between the government and the ruling parties at the Kantei (Prime Minister’s Official Residence) on that day that his party would like to suggest steps to the government for eliminating waiting lists for childcare facilities at an early date as the ruling parties’ joint policy.
This development came suddenly. Earlier in the day, concerns had been voiced at a meeting of Komeito’s central executive council and a project team was created on the same day.
At first, the government and the ruling parties had been slow to react to the blog posting. However, a group of mothers who were unable to send their children to childcare facilities presented 27,682 signatures to Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki on Mar. 9. This prompted Komeito to take action.
Yet, the effectiveness of the measures proposed by the government and the ruling parties is doubtful. For example, the proposal to utilize childcare services in neighboring municipalities is premised on vacancies being available. In the case of Tokyo, almost all wards and municipalities have waiting lists because all childcare facilities are operating at full capacity.
Although there are indeed cases where shortage of childcare workers is preventing the opening of new facilities, it will take a stable revenue source to increase the wages of childcare workers, whose monthly salaries are about 100,000 yen lower than the national average. (Abridged)