The Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, has recently pledged to take “unprecedented” measures to tackle the country’s low birthrate. However, his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has come under fire for a reported proposal to reduce student debt only for those who have children.
The LDP is currently drafting policy recommendations on the issue of the low birthrate in Japan. The proposed debt forgiveness plan has sparked criticism from opposition lawmakers and members of the public, who argue that it is unfair and misguided.
During an upper house session on Friday, opposition lawmaker Noriko Ishigaki questioned Kishida about the proposal, saying that “scholarship debt reduction and whether an individual would have a baby or not are completely different issues, aren’t they?” Ishigaki called the plan “a bad, unprecedented measure to tackle the low birthrate.”
Critics argue that the proposal is unjust, as it essentially requires individuals to have children in order to reduce their debts. Some have even compared the proposal to “paying with your body” and accused the LDP of treating humans like livestock.
In response, Kishida did not address the substance of the proposal, but instead emphasized the importance of “free and vigorous debate.”
However, LDP lawmaker Masahiko Shibayama defended the proposal, stating that it is aimed at financially supporting families with children, rather than punishing those without them. Shibayama told TV Asahi that the plan is “an expansion of support for child-rearing” and not “a policy linked to childbirth.”
Despite Shibayama’s defense, the proposal has continued to face criticism and backlash from many quarters. Some argue that whether to have a child or not is a personal decision, and that the government should not be incentivizing or pressuring individuals to have children.
Japan’s low birthrate is a major concern for the country, as it threatens economic growth and could lead to a shrinking and aging population. While the LDP’s efforts to address this issue are commendable, it remains to be seen whether this particular proposal will gain traction or face further opposition.
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