Japan’s PM vows to help ‘last chance’ increase birth rate

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday vowed to increase child benefits and paid parental leave, warning the country had a “last chance” to address its declining population.

Like many countries, Japan has been battling falling birth rates for years, with just under 800,000 babies born last year, the lowest number since registration began.

Fertility decline

The country is the world’s second oldest after tiny Monaco, and Kishida warned in January that Japan “is on the brink of whether we can continue to function as a society.”

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“Six or seven years is the last chance to reverse the downward trend in the birth rate,” he told reporters at a press conference on new policy proposals.

“I want to create a society where young people can marry at will, and anyone who wants can have children and raise them without stress,” he said.

He unveiled proposals including increased benefits for young children, efforts to raise youth wages, and measures to lower the cost of higher education.

Holiday to care for the child

Kishida said the government has now set a target of 50 percent of new fathers taking paternity leave by fiscal year 2025, and 80 percent by 2030.

Just under 14% of fathers went on vacation in 2021.

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To push for the increase, he proposed measures, including providing benefits to companies that encourage parental leave, and also promised to increase wages when both parents take leave.

“This way, couples can separate childcare and household chores, and the impact on income and career development is reduced,” he said.

“More support is needed for single parents,” he added, recalling a conversation with a young woman who said she was afraid to get married, have children, and then divorce.

“This story really came as a reminder that times and attitudes of young people are changing,” Kishida added, without describing the specific plans he plans for the matter.

Kishida did not provide details on how he would fund the additional measures, which would come after several rounds of pandemic-related economic stimulus and a pledge to increase defense spending.

His government planned to present the framework, including measures, by June.

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