We might complain about childcare waiting lists in Australia, but spare a thought for families in Japan.
There, ongoing childcare shortage has sparked a rise in dangerous, uncertified “baby hotels”.
The so-called baby hotels hit the headlines recently following the tragic death of a four-month-old baby in Hiratsuka near Tokyo. A 34-year-old man was arrested after the baby died from brain damage at “Chibikko Boy” nursery, according to the Japan Times.
There were reportedly 23 babies crowded into the nursery, and only one staff member.
According to the Agence France Presse, 14 children died in childcare facilities in Japan in 2015, and two-thirds of these deaths occurred in unofficial nurseries.
It has long been common to find 24-hour, drop-in childcare centres or babysitting centres in Japan, where working hours are long. Families can reserve places online and pay an hourly rate.
However, there are fears of a rise in unsafe, uncertified ‘baby hotels’ thanks to a shortage of publicly funded places. In Japan it costs about $AUD3000 a month (or $700 a week) to send a child to private daycare. There is even a word to describe the activity of hunting for daycare “hokatsu”. Places in publicly funded daycare centres are awarded on a points system, where disadvantaged families are awarded more points and are more likely to secure a spot in a nursery.
According to Japanese newspaper The Mainichi, a long-term shortage of childcare spots prompted authorities to allow corporations to open centres. However these unlicensed centres - of which there are 1000 in Tokyo alone - are not inspected as frequently as public centres.