Nagi Town, Okayama Prefecture, a miracle town boasting a birthrate of “2” while Tokyo’s birthrate is 0.99… What is the convincing reason for this? | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Nagi Town, Okayama Prefecture, a miracle town boasting a birthrate of “2” while Tokyo’s birthrate is 0.99… What is the convincing reason for this?

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Families with three or more children are not uncommon in our town.

In our town, it is not unusual for families to have three or more children. About half of all households raising children are multi-child households with three or more children.”

This was said by Mr. Kosaka, Counselor of the Information and Planning Division of Nagi Town, Okayama Prefecture, amidst the shocking report that the birth rate in Tokyo has dropped below 1.

Nagi Town recorded a total fertility rate of 2.95 in ’19, and although the rate dropped to 2.21 in ’20, it was 2.68 in ’21, 2.68 in ’22 (*), 2.68 in ’23 (*), 2.68 in ’24 (*), 2.68 in ’25 (*), 2.68 in ’26 (*), 2.68 in ’27 (*), 2.68 in ’28 (*), 2.68 in ’29 (*), 2.68 in ’31 (*), and 2.68 in ’31 (*). In 2009, it was 2.68, in 2010* 2.68, and in 2011* 2.21, and it has always remained above 2. It is said to be a “miracle town. (*Town estimate)

In 2007, the town recorded a total fertility rate of 2.95! (PHOTO from Nagi Town website)

The high birth rate is supported by various child-rearing support measures.

Currently, Nagi Town offers the following support measures.

  • Home Childcare Support Allowance
  • 15,000 yen per child per month is provided to those who are raising a child between 7 months and 4 years old (until the first March 31st after the child turns 4 years old) and who are not enrolled in a preschool, etc.
  • High School Enrollment Support
  • Provides 240,000 yen per student per year for up to three years.
  • Free medical care for high school students】 Free medical care for high school students up to the age of 18.
  • Nagi Town pays for medical expenses incurred at medical institutions, etc. until the age of 18.
  • Birth Gift Grants】】Nagi-cho will provide a flat amount of 10,000 yen for the birth of a newborn child.
  • 100,000 yen will be given to each newborn child.
  • Free school lunches for elementary and junior high school students and free school textbooks for elementary and junior high school students】】 Free school lunches for elementary and junior high school students and free textbooks for elementary and junior high school students
  • Free school lunches provided at preschools, elementary schools, and junior high schools. Free fees for educational materials at elementary and junior high schools

The high school enrollment support program provides 240,000 yen per person per year! That sounds pretty expensive,

Nagi Town has no high school and no train service, so high school students have to commute by bus. If they wanted to go to a high school in a neighboring city, they would have to pay about 25,000 yen per month for a commuter pass. This is an attempt to alleviate the financial burden of financing high school and other schools, including transportation costs.”

The reason for such generous support measures was the fact that in 2002, a referendum was held to determine whether or not the town would merge with another town, and the residents chose to remain as a single town government.

In order to maintain the sole town government, it is important to have the younger generation stay in the town and maintain the current population level. To achieve this, we decided that measures to support child rearing would be necessary.

To secure financial resources for the support measures, the number of council members was reduced from 14 to 10, compensation for members of various committees was reduced, and public works projects were reviewed.

The population of Nagi Town is 5560 as of April 1, ’24. As of April 1, 2010, the population was 5,725, and it is continuing to decline slightly. To promote migration, vacant houses are utilized, and subsidies are provided for newly built or built-for-sale houses.

Financial support alone will not increase the number of children…

However, financial support is provided by various local governments. Financial support alone cannot increase the birth rate. Therefore, we have simultaneously promoted mental support to enable people to raise their children with peace of mind.

One such program is the “Nagi Child Home. Child-rearing advisors are stationed at the home, and mothers raising children as well as those who have reached the end of their child-rearing careers participate in the program.

For example, if you need temporary child care for your younger child while you go to the hospital, or if you need to take care of your child while you go shopping, there is a temporary child care service called “Smile,” in which the child is taken care of at a child care home or at the home of an assistance member. Nagi Town’s support program is characterized by the participation of local residents in providing childcare support, rather than leaving it solely to professional staff.

In addition, public health nurses and local love care committee members visit every home when a child is born, and a “1,000-day Birth Monitoring Study” is conducted in cooperation with Osaka University in the hope of preventing postpartum depression. Midwives provide on-site breastfeeding counseling and psychologists introduce prenatal and postpartum counseling, just to name a few.

In 2005, the “Shigoto Convenience Store” business was launched to provide a work-sharing program so that employees can work while raising children. We are creating a comfortable work environment.
Following the discontinuation of the bus company’s service, the town of Nagi has been operating the Nagi Bus, a community bus service. Various measures are being taken to create a town that is easy to live in.

Work and children are both possible.

However, there are still issues to be addressed, according to Counselor Kosaka.

Many young people leave the town when they go to college or start working. In fact, the town’s population is slightly decreasing year by year. The challenge for the future is to address the increase and decrease in the population. We would like to continue and promote the current support for child-rearing, and at the same time, create an attractive town that appeals to people outside the town, and increase the number of immigrants.

One of the more substantial child-rearing support measures is the assignment of one assistant language teacher (ALT) for each of the 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old classes at the preschool and for grades 1-6 of elementary school and grades 1-3 of junior high school, starting this fiscal year.

I think the town’s ability to provide English-language education and other cutting-edge education in rural areas will be an added attraction.”

Perhaps because they can raise their children with peace of mind, the number of dual-income households has been increasing recently.

As in urban areas, the demand for childcare services in Nagi is increasing year by year. In April this year, we integrated one nursery school and two kindergartens to open a “Kodomoen” with a capacity of 250 children to meet the demand for preschool care and early childhood education.

In other words, the number of families with three or four children, even while working, is increasing. If you live in Nagi, you do not have to worry about whether to have children or work. Nagi is a place where you can have both children and a job.

English time at Nagikko Children’s School for 3- to 5-year-olds. Children are familiarizing themselves with English through play.
  • Interview and text Izumi Nakagawa

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