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Editorial: Angry blog post puts focus on Japan's severe day care shortage

An anonymous blog post declaring, "My child wasn't accepted at daycare. Die, Japan!!!" has promoted the government to work out emergency measures to address the long waiting lists for child care spaces in many places across Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was initially bluntly dismissive, saying, "Since it (the blog post) is anonymous, there's no way to tell if it's genuine." However, he changed his stance after anger erupted among many parents over being unable to find day care services for their children.

As the government has allocated 500 billion yen for childrearing support measures, the prime minister apparently wanted to say, "We're working very hard to address the issue." However, there is a severe shortage of day care places in urban areas. Prime Minister Abe should accept parents' anger humbly as long as the government is promoting its "dynamic engagement of all citizens" and "women's empowerment" policies.

One Tokyo woman submitted a some 27,000-signature petition calling for an increase in child care facilities to Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki. The woman said that, after extending her child care leave, she had been unable to find a nursery for her 14-month-old son. In the end, she was forced to move back in with her parents in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, where there was a nursery space open. However, this has meant living apart from her husband, and she now has a 90-minute commute to work.

A self-employed man living in the Tokyo metropolitan area said he could not get his 15-month-old son admitted to a certified day care and then was refused entry by all 13 noncertified nurseries in the district where he lives. For the time being, he has no choice but to use multiple child care facilities day by day or ask his wife to quit her part-time job until a place opens up.

He then found out, however, that he cannot put his son on a child care waiting list under the local government's criteria regardless of what he does. Priority for enrollment in certified day care facilities is given to children under the age of 1 both of whose parents have regular employment. As these children fill the slots for 1-year-olds at day cares for the coming year, there are few places left for those over 12 months of age.

"I was cast aside by the social security system. I sympathize with the 'Die Japan!!!' sentiment," he said.

The government plans to increase day care slot numbers across the country by 500,000 by the end of fiscal 2017. However, growing demand for nurseries from parents not in regular full-time jobs is outpacing the government's efforts.

In some residential areas in the Tokyo metropolitan region, local residents oppose the construction of new child care facilities for fear they could cause traffic snarls and noise. Since land prices are high in urban areas, it is difficult to secure playgrounds -- a necessity for government certification. It is also difficult to secure enough child care workers because the work is demanding and wages are low.

In Sweden, there is no waiting list for nurseries, as local bodies are obligated to admit children at child care facilities if their parents apply for slots. The Swedish government has lowered pension benefits and slashed medical costs by restricting the frequency of hospital visits, funneling resources instead to raising the next generation. It is widely believed, however, that the country's 25 percent sales tax can supply it with sufficient financial resources for social security services.

The Abe government is poised to provide a total of 390 billion yen in cash handouts to low income senior citizens. The administration can do more to address the issue of day care waiting lists. Japan will have no future unless people can both have kids and work without worries about childrearing.

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