The government of Prime Minister Kishida Fumio wants to give new mothers freebies to incentivize births. But will that be enough to put the brakes on Japan’s rapidly declining population?
Coupons for declining population fix
Japan’s dire crisis of population decline went from bad to worse in 2023. The number of Japanese nationals fell for the 14th year in a row, by about 800 thousand people.
The population of Japanese residents shrank in all 47 prefectures for the first time according to data as of January 1st this year. Conversely, the number of foreign nationals living in Japan reached a record 2.99 million. That’s a 10.7% increase from the year before – and suggests the increasing role of non-Japanese in making up Japan’s population.
In a desperate attempt to reverse the declining trend, the government launched the Children and Families Agency, or Kodomo Katei Cho (子供家庭庁) this April to oversee child policies.
On Monday, the agency announced plans to institutionalize the program launched by the central government in January this year that offers pregnant women coupons worth ¥100 thousand ($644 USD) in fiscal 2025.
Submit proof and get ¥100 thousand
The agency aims to establish permanent “Support Benefits for Pregnant Women” (tentative name),” or ninpu no tame no shien kyūfu (妊婦のための支援給付) to provide accompanied support to beneficiaries, including the ¥100 thousand coupons, with periodic counseling for parents.
Preceding the agency’s launch, the government rolled out the program “Childbirth and Childrearing Support Subsidy,” or shussan/kosodate ouen koufukin (出産子育て応援交付金) last year.
The program provides beneficiaries coupons totaling ¥100 thousand upon submitting proof of eligibility.
Beneficiaries will receive ¥50 thousand based on the submission of a pregnancy notification form and then another ¥50 thousand upon presenting a birth certificate. When submitting the documents each time, recipients will also undergo counseling.
The funds are for financing recipients to pay for services such as transportation to hospital visits and postpartum care amid the rise in childbirth costs.
Gov scrapes as childbirth costs rise
Childbirth costs have been on the rise in recent years, with the national average today being ¥57 thousand ($378 USD) more expensive than a decade ago. In response, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to increase the government’s lump-sum childbirth and childcare allowance from ¥420 thousand to ¥500 thousand this April.
The average cost of giving birth in public hospitals in fiscal 2022 rose for the fifth year in a row to approximately ¥463 thousand ($3,074 USD), according to study results announced by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) in September.
Of Japan’s 47 prefectures, Tokyo saw the highest cost hike to ¥562,390 ($3,735 USD). The lowest cost was recorded in Tottori at ¥359,287 ($2,386 USD).
Costs continue to rise in fiscal 2023, as 1/4 of Japan’s medical institutions raised the cost of childbirth after Kishida’s pledge to boost government allowances, according to a MHLW report.
Denied postpartum care
But costs aren’t the only issue. Availability of care is also a deterrent. Hospitals are raising childbirth costs as they turn away new mothers in need of postpartum care.
Approximately 14.4% of municipalities in Japan recorded cases in which mothers were denied postpartum care, according to a government-commissioned survey conducted last fall by the Nomura Research Institute, released this June.
The rejection rate for reasons such as a shortage of care facilities was even higher. That reached 43% in municipalities with populations of 200 thousand or more.
Youth don’t want babies
Unsurprisingly, such circumstances are making the prospect of parenting unfavorable for Japanese youth.
In April this year, a survey by Rohto Pharmaceutical found that around half of unmarried people under 30 in Japan have no interest in having children. By gender, 53% of men and 45.6% of women are uninterested in becoming parents. The respondents cited reasons such as the high cost of childbirth and childrearing.
What exactly the agency offers and how to use it
It is the combined disaster of a falling birth rate, rising childbirth costs, and increasing apathy towards parenting that the Children and Families Agency aims to fix.
Its program operates via local municipalities to support pregnant women and mothers of children aged zero to two, funded by the central government which allocates ¥42 billion ($279 million USD) to financial support and ¥10.1 billion ($67 million USD) to social support.
In addition to the ¥100 thousand sum coupons, each municipality’s Center for Supporting Childrearing Households, or kosodate sedai houkatsu shien center (子育て世代包括支援センター) will provide online and in-person counseling and distribute information on parent support groups, postpartum care, instructions for nursery school enrollment, and more.
How to apply for the support package:
1. Contact your local municipality to receive an ID card that recognizes your eligibility.
2. Following your municipality’s instructions, fill out online forms and register for the program.
3. You will receive coupons totaling ¥100 thousand. You will be able to apply for childrearing products and support services via the specified website.
Package includes requests for:
Household/childrearing services (household chores, babysitting, etc.)
Baby clothes and supplies
Food (baby food and formula)
Expendable baby goods (diapers etc.)
Expendable household goods (cleaning robots, humidifiers, kitchen supplies, video monitors, etc.)
Toys (picture books, playing blocks, etc.)
Baby goods (strollers, child car seats, cots, etc.)
Sanitary goods (masks etc.)
 Japan’s population falls while foreign residents rise to record. Reuters
 10万円支給「妊婦支援給付」 ２０２５年度に創設へ 子供家庭庁. 朝日新聞
 妊婦・子育て家庭への絆創型相談支援と経済的支援の一体的実施（出産・子育て応援交付金）. こども家庭庁
 出産・子育て応援交付金の概要について. 厚生労働省
 2023年1月開始の10万円給付「出産・子育て応援交付金」とは？（助成金なう）. 繊研新聞社
 出産費用、続く増加傾向 全国平均は85000円増 2022年度. 朝日新聞
 Mothers denied postpartum care in 14% of Japan municipalities: survey. The Japan Times
 Half of unmarried people under 30 in Japan don’t want kids, survey finds. The Japan Times
 Pregnant women might receive coupons worth ¥100,000 per newborn under new support package. The Japan News By The Yomiuri Shimbun