It is important to ease the burden on child-rearing by removing factors that deter people from getting married and having a child.
The government has compiled a draft outline of measures for society amid the declining birthrate. The outline has been reviewed for the first time in five years and it is designed as a new guideline on the matter, effective until 2025.
The yearly number of newborn babies last year fell to the 860,000 level, marking a record low. The total fertility rate — the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime — was 1.42 in 2018, continuing its downward trajectory.
If the number of children further decreases, the working population will taper off, sapping social vitality. As the aging of society progresses, expenditures on social security will grow, leading to an increase to the burdens on working-age populations.
While the government has set a goal of raising the birthrate to 1.8 through helping realize people’s expectations for marriage and childbearing, the prospects for realizing it look dim. The government should move forward with implementing comprehensive measures with a sense of urgency.
The draft outline is characterized by its policy to improve the environment for the young generation to have a positive view of having a family.
For concrete measures, the draft calls for improving nonregular workers’ conditions and reemploying them as regular workers. To support newlyweds’ livelihoods, a subsidy system will be expanded and improved for home purchases and moving, among other activities.
The number of couples married last year was 580,000, the fewest since the end of World War II. The rate of being unmarried among male nonregular workers is higher than that of regular workers. Financial insecurity is one of the reasons discouraging them from getting married.
The government needs to promote the employment of young people as regular workers by upgrading counseling systems for job seekers and subsidies for companies.
Regarding the child allowance paid until children graduate from junior high school, the draft outline suggests introducing a more effective benefit system to reflect the number of children and income levels of the household. The government is considering increasing the benefits for the second and third children in a family.
The perinatal female population is decreasing. By successfully reducing the burden on families with many children, it would encourage people to think about having another child.
With regard to the rate of parental leave taken by male workers, the draft stipulates a target of raising it to 30% from the current 6%. To urge them to take the leave, an increase in parental leave benefits is also being considered.
The burden of child-rearing and housework is largely shouldered by women. With the number of nuclear families and double income earners increasing, it is essential to make efforts to inspire men to become involved with child-rearing. Urging companies to reshape their ideas on this matter is important.
Many people have been affected by the spread of infections with the new coronavirus, as the outbreak has corresponded to such milestones in their lives as marriage and childbirth.
In times of a disaster, pregnant women or parents taking care of babies or infants are more likely to experience anxieties. The government must take further steps to consider how to assist child-rearing in an emergency.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 11, 2020.