Lack of Childcare is Hurting Japanese Push to Put More Women to Work

  • Number of kids on waiting lists jump 8 percent from last year
  • Abe has vowed to cut childcare waiting lists to zero

Waiting lists for daycare in Japan grew for the first time in five years, complicating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to offset a shrinking population by getting more women into the labor force.

Efforts to expand capacity at daycare centers have failed to keep pace with demand as more women remain in paid work after having children, according to the health ministry. There were 23,167 children on waiting lists as of April 1, up almost 8 percent from the previous year.

Abe last week laid out what he called three new arrows of economic policy, aiming to expand the economy, bolster support for families with children and improve social security. He vowed to cut childcare waiting lists to zero as part of a plan to enable more people to work regardless of family commitments such as caring for children and the elderly.

The number of working women has increased by about a million since Abe took office in December 2012. This year, the government relaxed restrictions on parents qualifying for daycare, sparking a larger-than-usual leap in the number of people seeking childcare services.

There were 2.47 million daycare places available for pre-school-age children as of April 1, up by about 140,000 from the previous year, according to ministry data.

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