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Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011

719 fewer kids looking for a spot in nurseries

Wait for day care gets a little better

Staff writer

The number of preschool children on waiting lists to enter authorized day care facilities nationwide fell for the first time in four years to 25,556 as of April 1, down 719 children from a year earlier, according to data released by the welfare ministry.

The decline was largely attributable to an increase in the welfare ministry's budget to help open new authorized nursery facilities, an effort that started in 2008, welfare and local government officials said Tuesday.

In the past year alone, 317 authorized facilities were built nationwide. Of the preschoolers on the waiting lists, 21,109, or 82.6 percent, were 2 years old or younger.

The data might spell somewhat good news for urban households with mothers looking for a job, although mothers of thousands of children still face a long waiting list for their offspring.

Many young mothers now need day care services to look after their children during working hours, which are often extended into the evening, particularly because of the sluggish economy, government officials said.

Of the 47 prefectures, Tokyo had the most preschoolers on the waiting list, at 7,855, while nine prefectures, including Aomori, Nagano and Miyazaki, did not have any children waiting to be enrolled.

According to the ministry, 2.12 million children were enrolled in authorized day care centers, up 42,837 from last year.

Among the local governments that successfully reduced the number of children on the waiting list by more than 100, Yokohama topped the list at 581. The waiting list there had 971 children as of April 1.

The city of Kagoshima pared its waiting list by 272, while Kawasaki cut the number by 225.

Yokohama has been working on a project since October 2009 to eliminate the number of children on the waiting list by April 2015, according to a municipal official. The planned increase in new day care centers and renovations will help cut the number to around 500 by next April, she said.

Meanwhile, among the local governments whose number of children on the waiting list increased by more than 100 since last year, Nagoya was at the top with 1,275 children. This was an increase of 677 from a year earlier.

A Nagoya official said the city's efforts to increase the number of authorized day care facilities has yet to keep up with the pace of parents wanting to enroll their children. The number of children on the waiting list has risen for two consecutive years in Nagoya, he said. Naha, Okinawa, saw 381 more kids on the waiting list from a year earlier, followed by the city of Fukuoka at 238.

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The Japan Times

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