About 30 years after the enforcement of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, working mothers are nothing unusual in today’s Japan. One of their top concerns is how to find a nursery school for their children. The number of childcare facilities in the country is so limited that there is always a long list of children waiting to get in.
The so-called waiting children are those lacking daycare who cannot be accepted by a nursery school chosen by their parents or guardians because it is already full. The phrase “lacking daycare” refers to cases where mothers are before and after childbirth, parents or guardians work outside of home or at home, they are sick and injured or in psychosomatic disorder, or they are preoccupied with nursing of other family members who live together and so on.
There are two types of childcare facility, an authorized one and a non-registered one. The former is an institution compliant with the standards defined under the Child Welfare Law. It sets the childcare fee in accordance with the parent’s income and age. The latter is facilities other than those based on the law. They provide their own childcare services and fees.
The waiting list inevitably grows longer because most mothers and guardians want to have their children accepted by an authorized nursery school.
The primary reason for their choice of such facilities is their lower fees. Authorized facilities that receive official subsidies charge between 20,000 yen and 40,000 yen per month. On the other hand, monthly fees charged by non-registered day-care centers are much higher, ranging from 100,000 yen to 150,000 yen. This difference means quite a lot for mothers who have to work in the recession of these days.
Their second reason is the quality of childcare. For example, all the staffs at authorized facilities are licensed persons such as child minders. In contrast, that does not necessarily apply to non-registered facilities. Hence the former are overwhelmingly more popular among mothers.
The situation is prompting many municipalities to address the problem. For instance, Yokohama that had the nation’s highest number of waiting children at 1,552 in 2010 struggled to deal with the problem as one of its priority policies. As a result, the number was brought to nil in May 2013.
As of October 1, 2012, children on the waiting list numbered 46,127 across Japan. When will this number be brought to zero?
Written by: Tomomi Kubota