October 17, 2022
TOKYO – The government is considering offering pregnant women coupons worth ¥100,000 per newborn from the pregnancy stage as part of a financial support package being considered, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The related budget is expected to be included in a second supplementary budget for this fiscal year, with the program likely to be a key part of a comprehensive package of economic measures to be compiled later this month.
The ruling parties are finalizing the details of the program, with the value of the coupons expected to be worth ¥100,000 per child, with no income cap for recipients.
Women who have submitted pregnancy notifications to their local governments and have been issued a maternal and child health handbook are expected to be eligible for the program.
The government expects the coupons to be used for prenatal and postnatal care, clothes, strollers, diapers and milk, among other necessities, as well as such services as temporary baby care.
The program will use coupons to ensure the support is used to purchase goods and services related to childbirth and childcare.
The government is considering making the coupons valid until the child turns 3 years old, and making it a condition that the child is not attending a daycare center or other such facilities.
The government aims to provide seamless support for women raising young children, with assistance from pregnancy through to the child’s third birthday.
In addition to expanding financial support, the government also plans to establish a support program in which public health nurses and midwives provide one-on-one counseling to mothers.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida discussed financial support for child raising with Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi at the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday, and they agreed to substantially increase the lump-sum childbirth and child-rearing handout in the fiscal 2023 budget.
Families can currently receive a lump-sum handout of ¥420,000 per newborn. However, the average hospital cost for normal births, excluding such deliveries as cesarean sections, was about ¥470,000 in fiscal 2021, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
According to the ministry, public expenditure per pregnancy is about ¥100,000 on average, but the amount varies among municipalities. Local governments cover the cost of 14 prenatal checkups, which would set pregnant women back ¥5,000 to ¥10,000 per visit.
Out-of-pocket health costs can build up depending on the medical institution, putting a heavy burden on family finances.
The expansion of support from the pregnancy stage has been highlighted as an urgent issue.
The number of births in Japan hit a record low in 2021 at about 810,000, and a trend that has emerged amid the pandemic of delaying marriage and childbirth has been cited as a factor.