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¥2 tril. policy package aims for free education

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Yomiuri Shimbun has learned the overall structure of the government’s ¥2 trillion-level policy package devised to realize the so-called human resources development revolution, a flagship program of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet.

Under the package, which is scheduled to be approved by the Cabinet on Friday, free services will be provided for 3- to 5-year-old children at kindergartens, certified day care centers and nintei kodomoen facilities, the last of which are certified mainly by prefectural governments and combine the functions of day care centers and preschools.

However, the government has put off a decision on the range of households that will be eligible for free services at unauthorized day care centers.

Low-income households that are exempt from residential tax will not have to pay any tuition at national universities. The package also includes measures to improve the treatment of childcare workers and nursing care workers as a step to bring to zero the number of children waiting to be enrolled at day care centers and the number of workers who are forced to quit their jobs to care for family members.

Titled the “new economic policy package,” it has such pillars as making preschool education free; making higher education free; and improving the treatment of workers in child care and nursing care. It realizes policies pledged by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito in the House of Representatives election, and will be funded mainly from the additional revenues from the planned consumption tax increase to 10 percent in October 2019.

Regarding free preschool education, the package stipulates that the “expenses for all children at kindergartens, day care centers, and nintei kodomoen facilities will be free” for 3- to 5-year-old children.

For children up to 2 years old, the government will work for the time being on making services free for low-income households that are exempt from residential tax. The government postponed deciding the range of households that can receive free services at unauthorized day care centers, saying it will “set up a framework for discussion, in which expert opinions will be reflected, and reach a conclusion by summer next year.”

Part of the free preschool education programs will start in April 2019, and will be fully implemented in April 2020.

Regarding university and other forms of higher education, the package stipulates that “low-income households that are exempt from residential tax will be totally exempt from tuition at national universities.” The reduction in tuition at private universities will be calculated by adding a certain amount of money to the tuition at national universities.

Annual tuition at national universities is about ¥540,000, and about ¥870,000 on average for private universities.

Komeito had called for making private high schools free.

The government plans to make final arrangements on its plan to make tuition virtually free for low-income households that are exempt from residential tax; provide up to ¥350,000 to households whose annual income is below ¥3.5 million; and provide up to ¥250,000 to households whose annual income is below ¥5.9 million.

April 2020 is regarded as the likely timing for the start of the plan.

The package also stipulates that “payments for childcare workers will be raised by ¥3,000 on a monthly basis from April 2019,” to secure labor for the industry to resolve the problem of long waiting lists at childcare centers. Treatment of nursing care workers will also be improved: People who have worked for at least 10 years will see their payments raised by an average monthly sum of ¥80,000.

It also includes plans to foster acceptance of foreign workers in the nursing care field and promote recurrent education in which people who have stopped working — such as women as a result of childbirth and childcare, and the elderly for mandatory retirement — polish their business skills.

The government package stipulates that about ¥100 billion will be allocated to improve the treatment of nursing care workers, but did not detail the amount of money to be allocated for other measures.

According to sources, the government estimates that ¥2 trillion will comprise about ¥800 billion for free education and day care services for preschool children; about ¥300 billion for tackling the problem of long waiting lists for admission to childcare centers; and about ¥800 billion for free higher education services.Speech

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