Photo/Illutration A sleeping baby (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has ordered bold and unprecedented measures to be laid out to deal with a low birthrate that has plagued the nation for decades.

The birthrate issue will affect “the very survival of the nation,” according to a report in December compiled by a panel of experts that discusses social security measures.

The first meeting of high-ranking bureaucrats from a wide range of ministries and agencies was held on Jan. 19 to respond to Kishida’s call.

“I hope that you all will bring your own specialized knowledge and go beyond ministerial boundaries to unite as one government to come up with unprecedented, decisive and bold measures to deal with the declining birthrate,” Masanobu Ogura, the minister in charge of policies for children, said to the attendees at the start of the meeting.

In his Jan. 4 news conference, Kishida laid out three areas that needed attention to help turn around the fallen birthrate.

The first was to provide economic support in the form of child allowances, while the second was expanding the range of child-rearing options, including child care facilities for after-school hours as well as for children with special medical needs.

The third area is reforming labor practices to make it easier for parents to take child care leave.

Bureaucrats at the director-general level from the Cabinet Secretariat, Cabinet Office, internal affairs ministry, Finance Ministry, health ministry, education ministry and transport ministry all attended the meeting on Jan. 19.

The group is expected to come up with a package of measures by the end of March.

Future sessions entail listening to the views of experts, parents raising children as well as young people.

Kishida has also said he would lay out a plan for doubling the budget for children by June, when the annual Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform is to be compiled.

Discussions on revenue will begin once the program of child-rearing measures is compiled.

While there has been a long trend of the birthrate falling, greater attention has been placed on the issue after an estimate in December suggested total births in 2022 would likely fall under 800,000 for the first time.