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Tapping the New Businesses To Counter Shortage of Nursery Schools in Japan

Yoshika Maeshiro

July 26, 2018

The Present Situation About Japanese Nursery Schools

Now Japanese government promotes women empowerment to secure labor force population, and the problem of children on the long nursery school waiting lists also gathers people’s attention. The more the working women increases, the less are the slots at the nursery schools, which they can leave their children. According to the report of Nursery and the Relevant Circumstances published in April 1st 2017, by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, even they have been dealing with the problem, the number of waiting children was 26,081 people and had increased by 2,528 over the previous year.

   However, actually, nursery school has been increasing year by year (See Figure 1). What is the cause of lacking of nursery schools? The reason  is that supply of slots are not sufficient for the demands. Especially, the demands in the metropolitan area are larger than other area, and there are three reasons for that: Firstly, the too many complicated regulations for nursery schools. Secondly, this is not a type of issue to be completely solved by market principle. And thirdly, higher price of properties.

Figure 1. The Transition of the Number of Nursery Schools

Source: The report of Nursery and the Relevant Circumstances published in April 1st 2017, by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry

   At first, as for the various regulations for nursery schools, there are two types of nursery schools in Japan, the registered day-care facilities and the non-registered ones. Local governments decides the categories according to whether there are playgrounds. In addition, even if there are waiting children, nursery schools can’t change authorized number of children they can accept and it is one of the regulations on any types of child-care facilities. To ease the regulations on these situation, government and local government had been increasing the fixed number, and resolving the ratio that how to allocate the qualified childminders, but it still seems to make no progress.

   As for the second reason, it is difficult to lift the significant regulations on the management of nursery schools to start the business. If we rely on the market principles, it may force the nursery schools to make their services to be cheaper than other schools. Inevitably, schools will have to reduce their labor costs, which could lead to decrease significant service quality.

   On the other hand, some people point out there are some affluent people who can afford expensive services, and if rich children move to the private nursery schools, middle-income or low-income families can let their children enter cheaper ones. Either way, it is hard to completely solve this issues by market principle.

   As for third reason of the higher price of properties, there are a situation of lacking properties that we can build large registered day-care facilities in the city area. Many of waiting children are living in the city area, and there are large demands for that. However, due to the lack of large lands because of the high land prices, the cost of opening a center will go very high.

Other Problem of Lacking Childminders

Besides these various barriers for supplying nursery schools, the lacking of childminders worsen the situation. It is estimated half the childminder license holders are not currently working at the nursery schools. And it is said that people who have been actually working are only 30 to 40%. Why does the lacking of childminders happen?

   The big reason of that is said low salary. Their starting salary was about 100,000 yen, and especially in the case of men, this is much lower than other jobs. Because of the low salaries, it is feared that they can’t help leaving their job. 

Courtesy: Hatch Cowork+KIDS

The Increases of Non-Registered Day-Care Facilities

Now, it is difficult for a business entity to get the status of registered day-care facilities, the non-registered centers have been gradually increasing. The differences between the registered ones and the non-registered ones are decided by government’s acceptance based on the room’s size or the number of childminders. But, there aren’t a few people who feel anxious for security to leave their children to the non-registered ones.  

   For these problem, recently non-registered facilities which parents can work near their children are increasing. One example is “Hatch Cowork+KIDS.” Hatch Cowork+KIDS is a co-working space which has kids room and is located in Akasaka mitsuke. It provides environments for families with small children to find a new working ways so that parents can select their working time and environment by themselves. Mr. Katayama, who is the founder of this company and have an experience of living abroad, had questioned the Japanese working situation that women have no choice butto quit their jobs when their marriage and birthing. That’s the way he started this business with his passion to change Japanese working style. Hatch Cowork+KIDS is an open type of working space, so customers can select their favorite seats freely. Specialized childcare staff are in the kids room twice-weekly 12:00 to 16:00 pm. The author visited this co-working space in one of the class, and participated to the activity of making paper clay from some toilet papers with parents and their children. It looked there are the closer ties between parents and children. Parents can work near their children, so they can see their children always. And children also see their parents are working. These long succession of small relationship might make us feel their closer ties.

Various Types of Child Caring Style

As the women’s working style diversified, the child caring style becomes also varied. In addition to the new type of facilities like the Hatch Cowork+KIDS, there are other types of nursery schools located in the university, providing some financial support for high land prices in the city area, and individual agreement asking for child caring.

   Now the problem oftaiki jidou is a big national issue under the situation of promoting women empowerment and securing the labor force. The problem of lacking nursery schools involves a lot of difficulties like too many complicated regulations, lacking childminders because of the low salary.

   Toward solving problems, the approach from only government and local government are no longer enough and business fields have a possibility to breakthrough it in terms of generating new child caring styles with improving working environment. We would expect more and more appearance of innovative child caring styles for resolution of the problem in business field in near future.





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