JIN-323 -- Fertile Ideas From the Grass Roots

T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News

Issue No. 323
Friday June 3, 2005 TOKYO

+++ VIEWPOINT Fertile Ideas From the Grass Roots
1. The Philoprogenitive Governor
2. Ishikawa's Premium Passport
3."Children Secure the Future"

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+++ VIEWPOINT Fertile Ideas From the Grass Roots
1. The Philoprogenitive Governor

Japan's total fertility rate plunged to a new low this year
-- 1.29 births per woman -- as it has for four consecutive years,
inciting what has become an annual rite of hand-wringing. The
rate dipped in spite of Japanese government initiatives including
improvement of nursery care.

There are, however, some oases in this otherwise barren picture.
For example, Tottori and Ishikawa prefectures saw their
birthrates rise in 2003. What might be the reasons?

The Tottori Governor, Yoshihiko Katayama (53), is something
of a guru of child-rearing. He practices what he preaches.
He is the father of four sons and two daughters. "One improves
at child-rearing," says the philoprogenitive governor. "The
first two children are a challenge. But you get the knack
from the third one."

Last year, during a stump speech for an LDP candidate for
the Upper House, Katayama spoke with passion about paternal
child-rearing to an audience of about one hundred women.
"I was the first father in Japan to give a baby a bath,"
he joked. But his humor held a lesson. "If dad cooperates
in raising kids, than mom's anxiety is halved."

The governor thinks that traditional child support leaves the
mother to pick up the slack. Even if there is an environment
in which she can both work and raise children, if father
doesn't pitch in at home, mother only bears a greater burden.

Believing that he should lead the way, he reviewed the ratio of
men and women at the prefectural office and appointed women
to a quarter of positions in the Finance Division, traditionally
a male bastion. Raising kids while working is becoming the norm
among Tottori prefectural office workers. Men are putting in
less overtime, perhaps stimulated by the sight of colleagues
who accomplished their work with dispatch and went home.

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2. Ishikawa's Premium Passport

Ishikawa Prefecture Governor Masanori Tanimoto (60) believes
corporate cooperation is necessary to put the brakes on the
decline in the number of children. To that end he has
contrived a scheme.

He plans to issue a "premium passport" to each of the
prefecture's 19,000 households with three or more children
under the age of 18. The passport entitles the bearer to a
discount at restaurants, bars and supermarkets. Plans are
afoot to also make the passport good for a discount on home
improvements. The price is borne by cooperating companies.

The program is due to begin next January.


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3."Children Secure the Future"

Goshiki, in Hyogo Prefecture, is known as a town with a
growing population of kids. Yet it took a decade before
an investment in housing and nursery schools led to a spike
in population. "Children secure the future," says Mayor
Ken Saito. "We've got to nurture as many people as possible
who think this is their hometown."

This suggests any fecund ideas for boosting fertility will
come not from the central bureaucracy but from the provinces
and the grass roots. As Whitman wrote, "I guess the grass
is itself a child . . . . the produced babe of the

--Burritt Sabin

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Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)

(C) Copyright 2005 Japan Inc Communications KK. All Rights Reserved.