TOKYO -- The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare plans to instruct local governments to lower the priority of parents asking for the denial of their applications to put their children into certified day care centers so that they can extend their child care leave period.
Such parents applying only as a formality to get the proper paperwork to extend their leave have proven to be problematic, as parents who really need to send their children to day care centers for job and other requirements cannot secure slots. Studies by the cities of Osaka in western Japan and Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, have found that about 10 percent of those denied entry were applicants who did not want to be accepted in the first place.
The practice has emerged due in part to current regulations. Under the Act on Child care Leave, Caregiver Leave, and Other Measures for the Welfare of Workers Caring for Children or Other Family Members, working parents are in principle entitled to one year of child care leave with certain benefits after a birth. They can extend the leave for another year if they cannot place their child in a day care center. But this is only if they have been turned down for slots by the local governments that manage entry into certified centers.
Because of this rule, some parents simply apply to popular day care centers with many competitors so that they will be turned down and can extend their child care leave. As many as 32 local governments have asked the central government to extend the maximum period of child care leave to up to two years without such conditions.
The Health Ministry plans to instruct local governments to ask applicants if they really need to keep their children in certified day care centers. Applicants who are judged to be able to extend their child care leave will be given lower priority in the screening process.
The ministry presented its reform plan on Oct. 22 to a panel of experts on decentralization under the Cabinet Office. Ministry officials believe the new arrangement will ensure that applicants who are truly in need will be able to send their children to certified day care centers, while those who only want to extend their child care leave will not have to get accepted against their will.