Kishida pledges to boost child-rearing budget to 4% of GDP

by Feb 16, 2023Featured Article, News

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged Wednesday to boost Japan’s budget for child-rearing to 4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product to tackle the falling birthrate, but he did not elaborate on how to secure the costs.

During a parliamentary session, Kishida said Japan’s expenditures for policies designed to support children and families reached 2 percent of GDP in the fiscal year ending March 2021, and the government is aiming to “double the amount.”

Although Kishida has expressed eagerness to double spending to fight the declining birthrate, saying that focusing on child policies is this year’s most pressing agenda item, he had stopped short of clarifying the basis for trying to achieve the goal.

Japan’s public expenditures related to family support stood at around 10 trillion yen in fiscal 2020, accounting for 2.01 percent of GDP in the year, underscoring that the country has lagged behind developed European economies.

Sweden spent 3.46 percent, Britain 2.98 percent and France 2.81 percent of their GDPs on child care, according to data released in fiscal 2018 by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo.

In his speech during an ordinary parliamentary session that started last month, Kishida warned that Japan is “on the brink” of losing its social function against a backdrop of the country’s rapidly declining birthrate.

But it remains uncertain how Kishida has been attempting to procure the budget for family support, fueling speculation that his government will carry out large-scale tax hikes to finance the costs.

The number of babies born in Japan is set to drop to a record low for a seventh straight year in 2022, falling below 800,000 for the first time since the government began compiling statistics on births in 1899, official data showed late last year.

Japan’s total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime — also decreased by 0.03 percentage point to 1.30 in 2021 from the previous year, down for the sixth consecutive year.

Meanwhile, asked by an opposition lawmaker at the parliamentary session on Wednesday about a legal revision to enable married couples to use different surnames, Kishida, head of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, said, “I have never said I oppose” the system.

While Japan’s Civil Code requires a married couple to share a surname, the vast majority of couples who register their marriage in the nation choose the husband’s family name. Many LDP lawmakers have voiced opposition to the legal change.

Japanese conservatives, who typically cherish traditional values, such as the role of women in giving birth and raising children, are opposed to separate surnames, arguing that the move might impact family unity.

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has recommended that Japan introduce reform to the system.