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Japan PM pledges aid in ‘last chance’ to boost birth rate

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday pledged to boost child allowances and paid parental leave as he warned the country faced its “last chance” to tackle a declining population.

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

Declining birth rate

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

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“Six to seven years from now is the last chance to reverse the declining birth rate trend,” he told reporters at a press conference to unveil new policy proposals.

“I want to create a society where young people can marry as they wish, and everyone who wants to can have children and raise them without stress,” he said.

He unveiled proposals including increased allowances for younger children, efforts to boost wages for young people and measures to tackle the cost of higher education.

Parental leave

Kishida said the government would now have a goal of 50 percent of new fathers taking parental leave by financial year 2025, and 80 percent by 2030.

In 2021, just under 14 percent of fathers took leave.

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To achieve the increase, he proposed measures including offering allowances to companies encouraging paternity leave, and also pledged more pay when both parents take leave.

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

“More support for single parents is needed,” he added, recounting a conversation with a young woman who said she feared marrying, having children, and then getting divorced.

“The story was truly a reminder that times and the attitudes of young people are changing,” Kishida added, without outlining specific policies he plans on the issue.

Kishida offered no details on how would finance the additional measures, which come after several rounds of pandemic-related economic stimulus and a pledge to boost defence spending.

His government plans to present a framework including the measures by June.

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