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Japan: Support for Raising Children of the Next Generation

(June 24, 2014) Because of the country’s low birthrate and problems arising from a shrinking population, since 1994 the Government of Japan has implemented measures to boost the birthrate. One set of measures is aimed at supporting child rearing. (Kuni no torikumi [Government Actions], Cabinet Office website (last visited June 24, 2014).)

In 2003, the Act on Advancement of Measures to Support Raising the Next Generation of Children and the Basic Act for Measures to Cope with a Society with a Declining Birthrate were enacted. (Act No. 120 of 2003 & Act No. 133 of 2003, both at E-GOV.GO.JP [in Japanese].) In April 2014, the Act on Raising the Next Generation was amended and strengthened. (Act No. 28 of 2014 [in Japanese], Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website.)

The Act on Raising the Next Generation had a limited term and was to expire in 2015, but the 2014 amendment extended the term for ten years. (Act on Raising the Next Generation, Act No. 120 of 2003, Supplemental Provisions, art. 2, amended by Act No. 28 of 2014.) The original Act obliges employers with 101 or more employees to formulate action plans to achieve employees’ work-family (child-rearing) balance. Business owners must notify the Equal Employment Office of the Labor Bureau of the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) about these measures and make them publicly available. (Id. art. 12.) The 2014 amendment of the Act adds a provision related to publicizing model companies that have implemented good measures. When a company is approved as a model company, the company releases information on its action plan and statistics, but will be exempted from the requirement to notify the MHLW. (Id. art. 15-2.) The MHLW has a website that introduces action plans for the achievement of a work-family balance (last visited June 23, 2014).

At the same time, other laws have been amended in order to strengthen support for single-parent families. For example, a grant for single parents to obtain job training is prescribed in the Single-Parent Family Welfare Act; the grant has now been made income tax-free. (Single Parent Family Welfare Act, Act No. 129 of 1964, amended by Act No. 28 of 2014 [in Japanese], arts. 31 & 31-4.) Provision of local government support for single parents and their children, e.g., by facilitating networking among single parents and providing counselors and tutors for children of single-parent families, is also newly prescribed in the amended Act. (Id. art. 31-5.)