130 Little Cries~Study 2. Continuing Fatalities & Childcare Environment~

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Ten years ago, we were told by the attorney whom we consulted on the case of Keiichi-chan’s death that the problem would become a social issue when one hundred similar cases occur.

And just as the number of cases of infant fatalities which we tracked in our study reached one hundred, the “baby hotel” problem became a social issue. It became such a pressing issue that the Prime Minister replied to parliamentary questioning on the issue, and the Minister of Health and Welfare was obliged to meet with Mr. and Mrs. Azuma and other parents who had lost their children at nursery facilities, and listen to their appeals.

Nonetheless, even we who have been investigating nursery fatalities are left speechless with the enormity of 130 fatalities. As we mentioned in our finding, the more realistic number would be several times that if we included fatalities that were not reported by the media because they didn’t make good stories, or those cases that were not known by the press or police. This is indeed a sobering thought.

Why would fatalities continue to occur? We believe that the following factors combine to produce this perturbing outcome.

(1) The absence of sound public policy on childcare

The many years of regressive public policy on childcare issues as exemplified by the paucity of public nurseries and failure to initiate day-long nursery programs for infants under one year have produced an irrational childcare system whose adverse effects befell disproportionately on children.

(2) The sharp rise in the number of “baby hotels”

Childcare is inherently labor-intensive. By contrast, the key to success in the baby hotel business is how to skimp work–in other words, how to reduce the quality of childcare. Thus, “childcare” undertaken by baby hotels is essentially alien to true childcare. Small wonder that there is no end to infant fatalities at these facilities.

(3) Inadequate Nursing Care for Infants under One Year

Nursing care for infants under one year of age has special requirements such as the need to avoid putting infants to sleep face down and the physical presence of a caregiver in the room where infants sleep. Acceptable procedures for this type of childcare have not been fully established. This failure is related to the fact that publicly-owned nurseries have traditionally avoided offering nursing care for instants under one year.

(4) Society Which Slights Value of Life

Nurseries continue to operate in a business-as-usual manner even after fatalities occur. Their predominant thought pattern is that even life can be settled with money. We cannot expect such a mentality to lead to a desire to thoroughly investigate the causes of fatalities and draw lessons from the findings.

(5) The Conditions of Parents

The mentality of solving everything with money exists on the parents’ side as well. Some parents think money can buy good childcare, and don’t want to bother to find out how their children are taken care of. There are also parents who, feeling in their bones that the quality of their children’s nursery facilities leaves something to be desired, have no alternatives but to leave them there.

(6) Human Rights of Children

In a society that has lost consideration for the weak, the human rights of children who cannot protect themselves are the first to be trampled on. The large number of fatalities is a proof positive that children’s human rights are not respected in Japan.

The multitude of problems mentioned above combine to create the present childcare conditions that continuously produce fatalities. In an advanced capitalistic society where even welfare of people is an object of profit-making, the polarization of the strong and the weak is inevitable. It is unavoidable, then, that children–the weakest in society–are most seriously victimized. It may not be an exaggeration to say that present society remains viable on sacrifices made by its children.

The government is pursuing the policy of fiscal reform at the expense of welfare programs. Under the circumstances, the fiscal climate for childcare programs cannot be expected to improve much, and we must expect that infant fatalities will continue to occur.

The harsh reality is that many infants will continue to be sleeping back to back with death under the hazardous conditions of many nurseries.

Asahi Shimbun: News Spot October 7, 1982

Mothers Find No Alternatives to “Baby Hotels”

Yesterday the Ministry of Labor announced the result of the survey of parents who use the services of non-licensed private childcare providers including the so-called baby hotels.

The survey was conducted last October with the participation of approximately 2,000 mothers who used the services of non-licensed private nurseries across the country.

As the reason for using the services, 41.0% of the respondents cited working for income. Reasons for working given by the respondents included: to supplement the family budget (34.2%), to support the livelihood of self and family (34.1%), for saving (29.5%) and repayment of consumer loans and personal debts (17.0%).

That many mothers had to work for urgent economic reasons was evident in that 33.9% of all the respondents agreed with the statements: “Although I want to quit my job, I cannot because I need the income to make a living.” and “I would like to quit working as soon as possible and devote myself to childcare.” On the other hand, 43.5% of mothers stated that they would like to continue their present work even if that means leaving the baby at a nursery.

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