Japan to offer free preschool for children aged three to five years
Japan’s House of Representatives has approved legislation to offer free preschool education from October 2019, according to local news source The Japan Times.
The program is expected to cost ¥776 billion a year (AU$9.8 billion), and plans to make preschool education free for all children aged between three and five years of age, with free long day care services also to be provided for children up to two years of age from low income families.
The program would apply only to preschools authorised by local governments, and a maximum subsidy of ¥37,000 (AU$467) per month is proposed to be provided to children aged between three and five at non-authorised preschools. A maximum subsidy of ¥42,000 (AU$530) per month for eligible children aged two years and under would be available at non-authorised preschools.
The Japan Times reported that the policy would be a cornerstone of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s initiative to widen the scope of social security services in a bid to reverse Japan’s falling birth rate.
“Reducing the financial burden of child-rearing is seen as key to boosting the country’s falling birthrate at a time of increased female participation in the workforce. The country’s total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime — stood at 1.43 in 2017,” the news source reports.
The Japanese Government hopes to pass the bill through the House of Councilors before the end of June.
The Japan Times also noted “The Abe administration also faces the difficult task of reducing the number of children wait-listed at day care facilities. Around 20,000 children were unable to be placed in day care in 2018 due to a lack of nursery schools and teachers.”