The outlook of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s “different dimension” policy support for childbearing and child-rearing is becoming murky.

The chances are growing that the government will launch the initiative with a shaky financing plan based on “bridge bonds.”

It is highly questionable whether this approach can realize a stable and sustainable system.

The Kishida administration should delve deeper into financing issues, without avoiding tax proposals, while reconfirming the basic principle that society as a whole should support parenting.

The government has decided to launch an intensive three-year policy campaign to tackle the problem of low birthrates. The package of policy measures thrashed out by the administration include expanding the child allowance program and child care services.

The total cost of these measures is estimated to be some 3 trillion yen ($21.45 billion).

The government has been considering adding an extra contribution for child care support to public health care insurance premiums. But a new proposal has recently emerged.

It has been cast as a spending reform to save nearly 1 trillion yen by curbing health and nursing care outlays while increasing the out-of-pocket payments by beneficiaries.

This proposal, apparently designed to avoid a major increase in health care insurance premiums, amounts to little more than reorganizing social security expenditures within the current overall budget framework. It is also doubtful whether this idea is viable.

The administration of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi tried to pare down social security spending by 220 billion yen each year for five years under its structural reform initiative. But the administration was forced to modify the initiative after it was criticized for destroying the health care system.

The government has long been considering a major review of the burdens and benefits of the health and nursing care programs. But it has been intended as part of the policy efforts to ensure the long-term sustainability of these programs despite the aging and shrinking of the population.

The administration’s move to secure a sizable new revenue source to finance the child care measures through such a review raises serious doubt about its commitment to promoting a new system of mutual support in society that is required for the envisioned child support policy initiative.

Also undermining healthy debate on this issue is Kishida’s remarks that have ruled out any tax increase, including a consumption tax hike.

Kishida has claimed that the remarks were about financing the policy measures for the next three years and were not intended to rule out a future tax increase. But it is difficult to understand why a tax increase should be ruled out just for the next three years.

If the administration says there is no room for an additional tax hike because it has already decided on one to finance defense spending expansion, that argument will have no chance of winning public support. The step should be reconsidered.

Some ruling camp policymakers are already calling for issuance of government bonds for bridge financing to ramp up child-rearing benefits before the financing plan is worked out.

As this is viewed as the last chance for reversing the decline in the child population, it is indeed crucial to introduce policy measures to deal with the problem immediately.

But this approach is acceptable only when the government is committed to developing a specific plan to secure stable revenue sources within a clear time frame.

With speculation rife about Kishida’s possible dissolution of the Lower House for a snap election, the administration should not try to garner votes by promising greater child care support benefits without offering a convincing financing plan.

This is time for policymakers to confront head-on the challenge of hammering out a system to ensure support for child-rearing as a whole society that is based on a reliable financing approach that is not regressive.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 26

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EDITORIAL: Financing child care support plan needs stable revenue sources

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26.05.2023

The outlook of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s “different dimension” policy support for childbearing and child-rearing is becoming murky.

The chances are growing that the government will launch the initiative with a shaky financing plan based on “bridge bonds.”

It is highly questionable whether this approach can realize a stable and sustainable system.

The Kishida administration should delve deeper into financing issues, without avoiding tax proposals, while reconfirming the basic principle that society as a whole should support parenting.

The government has decided to launch an intensive three-year policy campaign to tackle the problem of low birthrates. The package of policy measures thrashed out by the administration include expanding the child allowance program and child care services.

The total cost of these measures is estimated to be some 3 trillion yen ($21.45 billion).

The government has been considering adding an extra contribution for child care support to public........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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