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2009年3月 3日 (火)

保育制度改革―「未来への投資」を急げ

2009/3/3

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 2(IHT/Asahi: March 3,2009)

EDITORIAL: Nursery system reform

保育制度改革―「未来への投資」を急げ

It was exactly two decades ago that the fertility rate, the average number of babies a woman gives birth to in her lifetime, hit 1.57--then an all-time low. It was a development that came to be known as the "1.57 shock." Since then, calls have mounted for measures to deal with falling birthrates. Today, women are still faced with the difficult decision of choosing between a career and having children.

 ちょうど20年前、女性が一生に産む子どもの数が過去最低になり、1.57ショックと呼ばれた。以来、少子化対策が叫ばれてきたにもかかわらず、「仕事か子どもか」の厳しい選択を迫られる状況は相変わらずだ。 

Even when a woman wants to use child care services, there are often not enough day nurseries to go around. As a result, about 20,000 children remain on waiting lists. Many women must have given up having a child because of the circumstances they face.

 子どもを預けたくても保育所が足りない。待機児童は約2万人もいる。産みたくても産めない、と子どもをあきらめる人もいるにちがいない。 

The birthrate has not recovered and women still find it difficult to continue to work. Inevitably, the nation's labor force will be insufficient in years to come. There is no guarantee that pension and other social security programs can be maintained with such a diminishing workforce.

 出生率は回復せず、女性も働けず、将来の労働力不足を避けることができない。年金などの社会保障制度を支えられるかどうかもあやしくなる。 

The key to resolving these concerns is to provide ample and high-quality child care service so that women can pursue both a career and motherhood.

 こういう不安を解消するカギは、質の高い保育を十分に提供して「仕事も子どもも」を実現することだ。 

A special committee of the Social Security Council, an advisory body to the minister of health, labor and welfare, has put together its first report on measures to provide child care service to everyone who needs it.

 必要な人すべてが保育サービスを受けられるようにしようと、厚生労働相の諮問機関・社会保障審議会の特別部会が第1次報告をまとめた。 

Of all the preschool children in Japan, 2.16 million now attend public day-nursery facilities and authorized facilities that receive public aid. In addition, 230,000 attend unauthorized nurseries. Together, the figure far exceeds the 1.67 million children who go to kindergartens.

 学校に上がる前の子どものうち、現在、約216万人が公立保育所と公的な補助のある認可保育所にいる。無認可保育所には約23万人。約167万人の幼稚園児より数ははるかに多い。 

What must be done to increase the number of day-nursery facilities?

 どうしたら、保育所を増やすことができるのか。 

According to one proposal, municipal governments could issue coupons to parents to allow them to sign contracts directly with day-nursery facilities, instead of through municipal governments.

 市町村が支給する利用券で保育所と利用者が直接契約する案もあった。

This, the thinking went, would promote free competition among nurseries based on market principles. But there were also fears it could also create disparities in the quality of services being offered. Concern was also expressed about the risk of competitive selection, thereby creating a vacuum and leaving some areas without day-nursery facilities. For these reasons, the plan was abandoned.

いわば市場原理に基づいた自由競争だ。これでは保育の現場に格差が生まれかねない。競争で淘汰(とうた)が働き、近くに保育所が一カ所もない事態もありうる。この案は採用されなかった。 

In the report, the committee proposes that municipal governments guarantee public child care service to parents by issuing certificates recognizing their need for such services. In urban areas with numerous children waiting for their turn in day-nursery facilities, local governments currently tend to be overly strict in screening applications.

 新たな制度案では、必要だと認められれば認定証明書で公的保育を保障する。いまは待機児童の多い都市部で要件を厳しく判断しがちだからだ。 

The report also proposes revisions to the current system under which prefectural governments would have the authority and discretion to approve the establishment of day-nursery facilities. The report proposes the introduction of a system that allows designated operators meeting minimum standards to set up facilities. The report also proposes a system that encourages new entries by private companies.

 保育所の認可は都道府県の権限だが、最低基準をクリアすれば新たに指定制などでも対応できるようにする。民間参入を促す仕組みもつくる。 

It is unclear whether the proposed reforms will effectively increase the number of day-nursery facilities. The reforms will be pointless if they only lead to poorer quality of services. Improving the working conditions of care-givers is essential.

 この制度改革で果たして量が増えるかどうか不明だが、質が低下しては元も子もない。保育の質の向上には保育士の待遇改善が欠かせない。 

A key issue is going to be funding. It is said the number of children awaiting their turn could potentially reach 1 million. It is estimated that about 700 billion yen will be necessary for running fees alone to provide services to those children.

 いずれにしろ、保育所を増やすには財源が問題になる。潜在的な待機児童は約100万人とされ、運営費だけで約7千億円前後が必要だという。 

The reform plan is based on the premise of an increase in the consumption tax rate, but there is no knowing when that will happen.

 改革は消費税引き上げを前提にしているが、いつになるかわからない。 

Compared with European nations, Japan allocates less public budget funding for families and children.

 もともと、欧州に比べて日本は家庭や子どもへの対策の費用が少ない。 

Many countries, Sweden for example, have combined the operations of kindergartens and nurseries and placed heavy emphasis on child care and early education. As a result, they have a sufficient number of workers in that sector.

 欧州ではスウェーデンなど、幼稚園と保育園を一元化したうえで保育・幼児教育に力を入れている国は多い。人員配置も手厚い。

In comparison, Japan is thought to be more than a decade behind.

将来を担う子どもたちを育てる理念がある。それに対して日本は10年以上遅れているという。 

In the midst of this recession, more people are hoping to place their children in child care so they can go to work. Improving child care should be given much higher priority, and the government should allocate funds accordingly.

 不況下で子どもを預けて働きたい人が増えている。政策の優先順位を上げて財源を手当てすべきだ。 

"Investing for the future" should not be delayed. It should be put into practice as soon as possible.

 「未来への投資」は引き延ばすことなく、素早く実行に移してほしい。

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