Japanese PM vows to raise childcare leave benefits amid plunging birthrate

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), places a paper flower next to the name of an LDP candidate who has won a seat in the House of Councilors election at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, July 10, 2022. Photo: Toru Hanai/Pool via Xinhua

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday vowed to increase childcare leave benefits in a bid to reverse the country's plummeting birthrate.

Kishida told a press conference that the next six to seven years will be Japan's last chance to reverse its declining birth trend, noting that his administration will carry out unprecedented measures as a top priority to turn the situation around.

Kishida said the government will provide assistance to employers to encourage their male staff to take childcare leave. Only about 14 percent of eligible male workers in Japan took parental leave in 2021, while the government aims to raise the figure to 50 percent in three years.

The prime minister also pledged to provide benefits to freelancers and self-employed workers who stand to lose income after the birth of a baby.

The number of babies born in Japan in 2022 slipped to a record low, falling under 800,000 for the first time since records began in 1899. The drop comes much earlier than the government expected.

Kishida said his administration will reveal the new scheme's outline along with its policy package in June.

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