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In Nagi-cho, the Japanese city that pays money for children

Like many other young couples, they tried to raise their child in the city, but found the life between the blocks too narrow and expensive, with few childcare options. Finally they gave up.

"When people are between 20 and 30, they can not afford to live in a larger city in a city," Katsunori said. "We knew we could not do it if we wanted more kids."

Fourteen years later, the Osakas moved to Nagi, where Katsunori grew up. The sleepy rural city of southern Japan has become a success story in the country's efforts to increase its declining birth rate.

With about 6,000 inhabitants, Nagi feels remote from Nagoya and residents indicate that there are no busy streets as reasons why it is a great place to raise children.

But they are not the only advantages: Nagi also pays couples who live there to have children.

Families receive 1

00,000 yen ($ 879) for their first child, 150,000 yen [19659007] ($ 1,335) [19659007] for their second and up to [19659007] 400,000 yen ($ 3,518) for the fifth child born in

Nagi has been making payments since 2004, offering more parental benefits to parents to increase the city's birth rate and stop the broader trend of Japan's aging population.

Benefits include subsidized housing, free vaccinations, school subsidies and reduced kindergarten costs.

And they seem to work.

In the neighborhood where the Osaka live, most couples have three or more children because they can and you like.

Nagi is in stark contrast to much of Japan.

Between 2005 and 2014, the town's fertility rate – based on the average number of children a woman has during her lifetime – doubled from 1.4 to 2.8 and became widespread in the population.

Since then, Nagi's overall fertility rate has dropped slightly to 2.39, but is still well above the national average of 1.46.

  The Osakas say that they want their children to experience the world first instead of settling down immediately in Nagi-cho.

Shrinking Japan

Japan has been in a steady demographic decline since the 1970s.

In 2017, fewer than 950,000 babies were born, while the death toll increased to a post-war record high of 1.3 million, according to the Ministry of Health and Labor .
The country's total population is 127 million, and children account for only 12.3% of the total population, compared to 18.9% in the US, 16.8% in China and 30.8% in India , And by 2065 Japan's population is expected to drop to about 88 million.
Tokyo, a city with more than 9 million inhabitants has the lowest birth rate of all 47 prefectures in Japan at 1.17. It also has the largest number of children on childcare waiting lists.

More than 5,400 children seek a hard-to-reach place in day-care centers in the city, almost 30% of the total population.

Traditional Government Politics has made it hard for working men and women to reconcile their careers with family life, said Hirokazu Kato, a professor of economics at Meiji University in Tokyo.

Apart from lack of childcare, the declining fertility rate in the country is influenced by the career aspirations and the increasing trend among men and women to postpone or avoid marriage According to a report from the National Institute for Population and Social Security Research, the number of people reaching who were not married until the age of 50, a record of 23.37% for men and 14.06% for women.
Another key factor is Kato's steady migration from rural people into expensive smaller apartments in crowded cities.
Over 93% of the Japanese population lives in urban areas where it is simply too difficult for many couples to have one or more children.

"There is a big gap between the cost of living in major Japanese cities and the less populated areas of the country," added Kato. Often, couples in the city are also a long way from their families, who could otherwise help to support them.

It is not uncommon for families in Nagi to have three to five children.

In preschool children play with their siblings.

There is currently no waiting list to get a place in the daycare.

Is progress enough?

Since the 1990s, Japan has introduced guidelines to increase the birth rate, such as improving childcare and improving housing and public amenities for families with children.

There has been some progress in the country last year: the number of children on child day care lists fell below 20,000 for the first time in 20,000 years in health, work and social services.

In addition, the government announced a $ 2 trillion [18659007] spending package this year to expand the free pre-school for children ages 3 to 5 – and for children under 2 years old – a family s – and shortening the waiting times in daycare.

As in many parts of the world, women in Japan are traditionally expected to leave work to look after their families. However, such settings change slowly.

"The traditional way of thinking" men at work and women at home "is a historical relic in Japan," said Yukiko Inoue-Smith, professor of educational psychology at the University of Guam. "Women in Japan want to keep their jobs, and their husbands want them to work to earn a double income."

The government's efforts to keep women through a plan called Womenomics are also paying off.
In just three decades, the proportion of Japanese women between the ages of 30 and 34 who return to work after maternity life has risen from 50% to 75%, according to recent reports .
But many of those who return to work have to accept lower wages or get stuck on the corporate ladder, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (2017).

Fathers also need to play a bigger role in childcare and home care so women can continue their careers, according to Inoue-Smith.

This presents its own difficulties. In Japan, new fathers can claim unpaid paternity leave – one of the highest dads who have vacations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. However, only 3% accept this because they fear the impact on their careers and income.

A Family-Friendly Future

Nestled among green hills, Nagi is known for its Wagyu cattle and has a small manufacturing center where 19 companies have factories. Life remains fairly traditional; Most couples marry in their early to mid-twenties and soon start families.

The women who live in the city or move to the city know that there are no high-profile careers, but the opportunity to reconcile work and private life.

Up to 70% of women often go after delivery as an office worker or teacher. Long commuting, strenuous workload and limited childcare are no problem here. For mothers who want to work a few hours a week, a local company offers odd jobs such as data entry and packing materials while the children are in the daycare.

  Nobue Sasaki is standing in the hallway of the Nagi Child Home.

The city also spends a decent portion of its family services budget, in part due to additional funds received by the government for hosting a garrison of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

In the past, officials have also accepted lower salaries so they can pour more money into the future of the city

Some big extended families still live under one roof, or at least in the same neighborhood, so grandparents work at their children's work can arrive.

Nagi-cho strives to create a family-friendly environment for all ages.

Kozue Kobayashi relaxes with her child at the Nagi Children's Home.

An elderly volunteer watches over the child of a busy mother.

"We have really focused on creating a family-friendly environment in Nagi," said Nobue Sasaki, a gentle city official, within the pastel-colored walls of the Nagi Child Home, a center dedicated to the city's support of Mothers and people across the entire age spectrum.

Kozue Kobayashi, a 30-year-old mother who moved to Nagi from the city of Okayama, said she appreciated the camaraderie of the Nagi Child Home, in which she gets help in taking care of her child's children. She comes on most days.

"It's better to stay at home and feel alone and overwhelmed," Kobayashi said. "If I stayed in Okayama, I would not have access to this kind of service."

Nagi embarked on a large-scale PR campaign in 2012 to publicize the success of its family planning initiatives Spread.

When CNN came to visit, a group of high-ranking bureaucrats shuffled around the entrance to the center's playroom. They were just a few of the many who came to experience the city's fertility secrets.

"Our population has remained stable, but we can take lessons from such a space," said Nagatoshi Ishiura, a bespectacled local politician from neighboring Shouji. "It's nice to see a place where three generations are still exchanging."

The Osaka's daughter prepares to play against her brother.

The Osakas do not necessarily want their children to stay in Nagi after they grow up.

Apart from a parent-friendly policy, changing attitudes in Japanese society have helped create the right environment for the birth of children in Nagi. The traditional expectations that women give up work after giving birth collapse. The decision to stay home with a mother is gradually becoming a personal decision rather than a social obligation, said Inoue-Smith, a professor of educational psychology.

Kaori chose parenting for her career, but said that she did not necessarily want it for her own children.

"I do not expect my own daughters to stay in Nagi," she said. "I would prefer them to leave Nagi and see more of the world."

Photo Editing by Jason Kwok. Graphics by Natalie Leung. Edited by Hilary Whiteman in Hong Kong and Meera Senthilingam in London.

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