Japan enacts legislation making preschool education free
Japan Today -- May 11
Japan enacted legislation Friday making preschool education free as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive to expand child care support and stem the country's falling birthrate.

The government will use revenue from the planned consumption tax hike in October to run the free education program that is expected to cost 776 billion yen per year.

The bill, which secured lower house approval in April, was passed by the House of Councillors on Friday, amid criticism from some opposition lawmakers that the government should first focus on reducing the number of children on waiting lists for nursery school places before making preschool education free.

Under the program, the government will make preschool education free for all children aged between 3 and 5. Day-care services will also be made free for children up to 2 from low-income households.

If parents send their children to preschools that are not authorized by local governments, maximum monthly subsidies of 37,000 yen per child will be given for those aged between 3 and 5, and 42,000 yen for those aged 2 and younger. School meals will not be covered.

"The financial burden of education and child-rearing weighs heavily on young people, becoming a bottleneck for them to give birth and raise children. That is why we are making (education) free," Abe told a parliamentary session on Thursday.

Abe's administration has been encouraging women's participation in the workforce amid a deepening labor crunch, while trying to reduce the number of children on waiting lists for day-care facilities.

Japan's total fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime -- stood at 1.43 in 2017, according to government data.

幼児教育と保育の無償化を実施する法律が成立しました。 幼児教育と保育の無償化を実施する改正子ども・子育て支援法が与党などの賛成多数で参議院本会議で可決・成立しました。
News sources: Japan Today, ANNnewsCH
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