Abe's proposal of free preschool education garners support, but families uncertain about timing

Free education for preschoolers would be a boon to those who are raising children, and many families would like to see swift action in this measure proposed by Prime Shinzo Abe ahead of the dissolution of the House of Representatives for a snap election.

“I’m glad (about the measure) but I wonder whether it will be put into practice,” said Mihoko Toida, mother of a two-year-old boy who lives in Mitaka, western Tokyo.

“I won’t feel relieved until it becomes clear when (the measure will be implemented).”

Toida, 23, aspires to a career in the beauty and personal care industry in which her husband works. But she is prevented from taking on jobs because the family cannot find a nursery school for her son to attend.

In the Sugamo district in central Tokyo, Tokuaki Hayashi, 86, supports new measures that assist younger generations of parents.

“It can’t be helped. Young people also need strong assistance,” said the resident of Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward. “But things will become tough for those living on smaller pensions.”

The Lower House was dissolved Thursday for a snap election on Oct. 22. When announcing his plan on Monday, Abe said he will seek a fresh public mandate to redistribute the additional revenue anticipated from a consumption tax hike slated for October 2019.

The use will be changed to help finance measures to create a social security framework for all generations, including those to realize free education for children ages three to five in all families and free nursery services for those under 3 in low-income families, Abe said.

The prime minister has also proposed free education at higher-education institutions, including universities and vocational schools, for students in low-income families.

Estimates by the Cabinet Office show that the programs for preschoolers are expected to total ¥1.17 trillion. The government agency also estimates ¥3.7 trillion in costs to make higher education free of tuition for all students regardless of household income.

The proposed measures will be partly financed with a portion of the additional consumption tax revenue. But how to generate the remaining financial resources is a big question.

An 80-year-old man of Tokyo’s Kita Ward said he thinks it is good to change the planned use of the tax hike proceeds. But “this will cause trouble in the future,” he said, concerned about further deterioration in the already tattered state finances.

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