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Japan aims for 85% of male workers to take paternity leave by 2030

Kishida tackles falling birthrate, which hit new low in 2022 for 7th year in a row

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a press conference on March 17 that the next six to seven years would be the last chance to turn around the country's declining birthrate. (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged Friday to implement the necessary measures to allow 85% of male workers who have a child to take paternity leave by fiscal 2030 to tackle the falling birthrate.

Kishida said at a press conference that his government will also take steps to push up wages for young workers and boost economic assistance to them to create an environment conducive to raising their children free of concerns.

"In the 2030s, the young population in Japan will decline at twice the current rate. The next six to seven years will be the last chance to turn around the declining birthrate," Kishida said, adding his government will map out a child policy package by the end of March.

In Japan, 85.1% of eligible women took maternity leave in fiscal 2021 through March 2022, compared with only 13.97% of men. Many workers say they worry that taking time off may increase colleagues' workload.

The number of babies born in Japan in 2022 fell to a new record low for the seventh consecutive year, dropping below 800,000 for the first time since records began in 1899, government data showed late last month.

Kishida has expressed an eagerness to increase spending to fight the declining birthrate, saying that focusing on child policies is this year's most pressing agenda item, but he has stopped short of clarifying how the budget will be funded.

Japan's public expenditure related to family support stood at around 10 trillion yen ($75 billion) in fiscal 2020, accounting for 2.01% of gross domestic product in the year and underscoring that the country has lagged behind developed European economies.

Sweden spent 3.46%, the U.K. 2.98% and France 2.81% of their GDP on child care, according to data released in fiscal 2018 by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo.

How Kishida plans to procure the budget for family support remains unclear, fueling speculation that his government will carry out large-scale tax rises to finance the costs.

Kishida's remarks on Friday came as some critics said he might turn to "pork barrel" policies in the run-up to a string of local elections in April.

The premier, meanwhile, has decided to roughly double Japan's defense spending over the next five years and to acquire enemy base strike capabilities to deter attacks in a major shift in security policy amid mounting regional military threats.

The Kishida administration has voiced its readiness to raise corporate, income and tobacco taxes "at an appropriate time" in fiscal 2024 or later to secure roughly 1 trillion yen ($7.5 billion) in fiscal 2027 to beef up the country's defense capabilities.

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