Japan PM Kishida lays out plan to reverse falling birth rate

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has laid out his vision to reverse Japan's plummeting birth rate, a key pillar of which is boosting parental leave benefits.

Kishida said on Friday that the next six to seven years will be Japan's last chance to reverse its declining birth trend. He also said that his administration will carry out unprecedented measures as a top priority to turn the situation around.

The number of babies born in Japan last year fell below 800,000 for the first time since record-keeping began more than 120 years ago. Many couples are hesitating to add to their families because of rising costs.

Kishida said the government will provide assistance to employers to encourage more of their male staff to take childcare leave. About 14 percent of eligible male workers in Japan took parental leave in 2021. The government aims to raise that number to 50 percent in three years.

Kishida pledged to increase parental leave benefits when both parents take time off work after the birth of a baby. He also said a new system needs to be created to support freelancers and self-employed workers who stand to lose income due to child-caring responsibilities.

The prime minister said his administration will reveal the plan's outline along with its policy package in June.