The government on Thursday modified Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's pledge of doubling the Japanese government's childcare budget from the current 2 percent of the country's gross domestic product to counter the declining birthrate.
The revision came a day after Kishida said during a parliamentary session that Japan's expenditures to support children and families reached 2 percent of GDP in the fiscal year ending March 2021, and that the government is aiming to "double the amount."
The remarks raised fears among the public that the government may carry out large-scale tax hikes ahead of a spate of local elections across Japan in April.
Japan's fiscal health is the worst among major developed nations, with debt more than twice the size of its economy, the world's third-largest.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference on Thursday that by talking about increasing spending as a percentage of GDP, the government was not setting any specific "criteria" for achieving its target on the childcare budget in the future.
Kishida cited the figure as an example of how the government was looking to increase the budget, Matsuno said.
Japan's budget for childcare and family support stood at around 10 trillion yen ($75 billion) in fiscal 2020, accounting for 2.01 percent of GDP in the year and underscoring that the Asian country has lagged behind developed European economies.
In comparison, Sweden spent 3.46 percent, the United Kingdom 2.98 percent and France 2.81 percent of their GDP on child care in 2018, according to data released for that year by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo.