[ Nippon Keidanren ] [ Policy ]

Working toward a Better Childcare Environment


July 22, 2003

Nippon Keidanren
(Japan Business Federation)

The Committee on National Quality of Life formulated a set of policy proposals that respond to Japan's declining birthrate, one of the critical issues faced by the nation. Since various organizations had already released numerous reports on the causes and effects of the dwindling birthrate, and on the countermeasures that should be implemented by the national government, local authorities, businesses, and other organizations, these proposals focus on feasible ones for childcare environment betterment which facilitate workers to successfully care for their children while maintaining jobs.

The need for childcare environment betterment

The nation as a whole needs to undertake the following improvements: (1) adoption of diverse modes of labor as a means of countering negative effects of the declining birthrate, such as shrinkage of the labor force, deceleration of the economic growth rate, and mushrooming of the national tax and social security bureau; (2) promotion of gender equality; and (3) curbing the birthrate drop through implementation of measures for reducing the burden of childcare. Businesses need to engage in childcare environment betterment in order to be able to secure the human resources necessary for generating new value and improving their competitiveness.
Given the need for both business and society as a whole to address this challenge, companies are required to implement measures to support workers' ability to both hold down jobs and care for their families, and society to enhance childcare services.

Efforts Proposed to Business

The principal recommendation to businesses is to have the upper management lead a comprehensive program of employee awareness transformation aimed at eradicating from the workplace such fixed ideas as gender-based job tasking.
In addition, every company is called upon to voluntarily and proactively renovate its labor systems in order to develop a diverse set of work options (such as reduced hours and home working) that are in step with the reality of the workplace.

Efforts Proposed to Society

In order that childcare services, an indispensable element of the social infrastructure, can be effectively enhanced, society should change its perception of childcare. Specifically, childcare centers should be positioned not just as facilities for "providing care to children in need of care," but also as facilities for "responding to the diverse needs of all people who want to receive childcare services."
Based on the new perception of childcare, the establishment of a functional competition mechanism in the childcare provider market is essential to realizing the quantitative expansion of childcare services and responding to the diverse needs of users, while at the same time improving the level of safety and other important features of those services. To bring about this transformation, the following measures are necessary: (1) regulatory reform of childcare provider licensing systems, (2) expansion of local governments' accreditation systems, (3) implementation of new schemes based on user needs, and (4) support for onsite childcare facilities at workplaces.
Moreover, to realize the radical reform of childcare provider licensing systems, required are the abandoning of ex ante regulation in favor of ex post regulation premised on third-party assessment systems that operate on new standards and guarantee disclosure to users, and conversion to a scheme of direct support to users based on direct contracts with childcare centers from subsidies to childcare service rpoviders.

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