Media Mix, March 20, 2016

wakakusaBHere’s this week’s Media Mix, which concerns that anonymous blog post about the daycare shortage. An interesting footnote about Shiori Yamao that I didn’t learn until after I wrote the piece is that she once played Little Orphan Annie in a local version of the Broadway musical when she was much younger. I’m not sure if the experience gave her any special insight into the problems covered by the column–orphans and at-risk children are less of an issue here than over-burdened parents–but it certainly must have honed her public speaking skills, which are always in evidence whenever she stands up in the Diet.

As pointed out in the last section, the main difficulty to overcome with regard to the daycare shortage is the attendant shortage of human resources, caused mainly by the low pay involved. (As some have pointed out, the reason nursery school teachers get paid so poorly is that it is considered women’s work, but that’s an issue that deserves its own distinct discussion.) Whatever solutions the government comes up with in the short run to give it some traction before this summer’s elections, none of them will make much of a difference if they can’t get more daycare workers on board. And the only solution that I can see to that problem is for the government to make all workers government employees. After all, we’re talking here almost exclusively about public daycare services, which are run bureaucratically. For the most part, public daycare is set up and funded by local governments, who have limited budgets, so if the LDP wants to take a stand for working mothers they have to do something on the national level. There has been some talk about giving subsidies to public daycare centers that will go directly to workers, but they’re only talking about an extra ¥10,000 a month or so. Since public nursery school teachers are civil servants, governments should pay them civil servant wages, which tend to be better than those earned by private sector employees. Local governments are not going to be able to cover this outlay, so it’s up to the central government. Though it would be a huge amount of money, it would solve the problem. The fact that no one on either side of the ideological divide has suggested it probably means it’s a political non-starter, but isn’t that always the situation?

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