Fukuda Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.20 (February 28, 2008) ============================================================
"Moving beyond either-or choices. This is Yasuo Fukuda."
Many of you may be unfamiliar with the term "waiting list for nursery schools," but it refers to the lists of those small children who are waiting for nursery school vacancies to open up.
"I had been thinking that I would have to choose between either work or child raising."
The other day, when I visited a nursery school set up inside a company, I heard that comment from a mother who was using the facility. I am sure that not only for this woman but also for many parents, and for prospective parents, concern about this situation has led them to wonder whether or not they can really have children.
To be able to watch your own children growing day-by-day as you raise them is something that gives parents a sense of fulfillment. We must ensure that people in our society do not have to sacrifice their career in order to raise their children, but instead can continue to pursue their work aspirations, too.
The number of small children on the waiting lists is approximately 18,000. Moreover, the number of mothers and fathers who wish to return to work provided that they can leave their children in the care of a nursery school must be higher than this, now that the members of the second baby-boom generation are reaching the age where they can have and raise their own children.
The first "zero-waiting list for nursery schools" strategy, implemented by the Koizumi Cabinet, increased the number of nursery school places by more than 150,000 over three years starting from FY2002. The number of children waiting for places, however, did not decrease significantly, because the number of applicants increased at a similar rate to the increase in the number of places.
In the new zero strategy, the Government, with the aim of reducing to zero the number of waiting children, will take measures to increase the number of nursery school places intensively over the next three years by improving the diversity of childcare services, including a measure to enable childcare services to be provided not only at nursery schools but also at kindergartens.
At the same time, for individual parents who face various circumstances, it is not simply a matter of increasing the number of places available.
At the company I mentioned earlier, another working mother told me that thanks to the understanding of her boss and the support of her colleagues, she can leave the office in time to take care of her family. This illustrates the importance of positive support given by a company to its workers, to enable staff members with very young children to take childcare leave without reservation, and other employees to work in a family-friendly office.
It is also possible for people in local communities to support childcare by further developing systems such as the service provided by "childcare moms" -- experienced child minders who, at their own home in the neighborhood, take care of children for working parents in the case of emergencies, such as when children catch a cold but the parents have to go to work.
The new zero strategy is designed to proceed with more refined and higher quality childcare services in order to respond to the wide-ranging needs of working parents.
"I have found the resolve to have a second child."
A mother who had left her first child in nursery school care and continued working said this to the head of the nursery school I mentioned earlier. These words attest to the woman's contentment and confidence that she can successfully strike a balance between child raising and work.
I want to build a society in which work and family life are not such stark alternatives that either one or the other must be sacrificed. Holding fast to this desire, I will move forward with the new "zero-waiting list for nursery schools" strategy.
Following the accident last week in which an Aegis system-equipped destroyer collided with a fishing vessel, the search for the two missing people -- Mr. Haruo Kichisei and his son Tetsuhiro -- is continuing and has been joined by an ocean exploration vessel, but the two men have not yet been found. I deeply regret that this has occurred. The search for the men will continue, and we will also devote our best efforts to ascertaining the cause of the accident as well as toward preventing any similar occurrence.
* Profile of the Prime Minister
- Prime Minister's Week in Review (February 11 to 17, 2008)
- Prime Minister Visits the Republic of Korea and Attends
the Inauguration Ceremony for the New President Lee Myung-bak
(February 24 - 25, 2008) and others
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