Japan is currently facing many problems and only a few are going according to plan. Although the country has started to receive foreigners, COVID cases have skyrocketed, the pandemic has led to an economic meltdown, and the value of the yen is still low even after the government tried to intervene with big money, tensions with China are as strong as ever, the government is trying to encourage young people to drinking more to help the economy, and most importantly, the birth rate continues to fall. Despite this, Japan has not given up and is now offering an additional 80,000 yen to parents who choose to have more children.
Currently, expectant parents in Japan receive a lump sum child benefit of JPY 420,000 on the occasion of the birth of their child. It is considered that Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Katsunobu Kato wants to increase that amount to 500,000 yen (US$3,703). She met Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida this week to discuss the proposal. It is likely to be adopted and implemented in fiscal year 2023, which will start in the spring.
But even if the increase in scholarships doesn’t make anyone less likely to have children, it may not be as effective an incentive. Although it is referred to as the “Lump-Summ Grant” for Childbirth or the Lump-Summ Grant for Childcare, very little, if any, remains in the aftermath of the “Birth” part. Although the scholarship is funded by the Japanese health insurance program, the costs of childbirth are covered out of pocket. The Mainichi Shimbun says the average delivery cost nationwide is around 473,000 yen. The amount of the scholarship barely covers the costs of childbirth, let alone post-natal expenses.
So regardless of whether the amount was increased, parents would face an average of only 30,000 yen left over after they leave the hospital. This will do little to the overall cost of raising a child to independent adulthood. It is also doubtful whether the 80,000 yen increase will exceed the threshold of a decisive decision for parents with an infant.
Yes, there is no doubt that cautious views about the possibility of financially securing children is an obstacle to childbirth in Japan. The source of the problem, however, is usually the uncertainty of parents who plan to have children about the possibility of earning enough money to support the family and provide an enjoyable and healthy time between work and private life for the long period in which their child will become.
In Japanese society, this is a difficult tightrope walk. Concerns about dealing with it are a more significant factor contributing to lower birth rates than finding the money needed to pay for the birth of a child.
That said, having a little more money when the family grows is an element in itself that new parents will be grateful for. The increase of 80,000 yen will be the most significant increase in the history of the lump sum grant for childbirth and child care and for the first time since 2009.
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