Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged Friday to implement the necessary measures to allow 85 percent of male workers who have a child to take paternity leave by fiscal 2030 to tackle the falling birthrate.

Kishida said at a press conference that his government will also take steps to push up wages for young workers and boost economic assistance to them to create an environment conducive to raising their children free of concerns.

"In the 2030s, the young population in Japan will decline at twice the current rate. The next six to seven years will be the last chance to turn around the declining birthrate," Kishida said, adding his government will map out a child policy package by the end of March.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a press conference at his office in Tokyo on March 17, 2023. (Kyodo)

In Japan, 85.1 percent of eligible women took maternity leave in fiscal 2021 through March 2022, but only 13.97 percent of men did so. Many workers say they worry that taking time off may increase colleagues' workload.

The number of babies born in Japan in 2022 fell to a new record low for the seventh consecutive year, dropping below 800,000 for the first time since records began in 1899, government data showed late last month.

Kishida has expressed an eagerness to increase spending to fight the declining birthrate, saying that focusing on child policies is this year's most pressing agenda item, but he has stopped short of clarifying how to fund the budget.

Japan's public expenditures related to family support stood at around 10 trillion yen ($75 billion) in fiscal 2020, accounting for 2.01 percent of gross domestic product in the year and underscoring that the country has lagged behind developed European economies.

Sweden spent 3.46 percent, Britain 2.98 percent and France 2.81 percent of their GDPs on child care, according to data released in fiscal 2018 by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo.

How Kishida plans to procure the budget for family support remains unclear, fueling speculation that his government will carry out large-scale tax hikes to finance the costs.

Kishida's remarks on Friday came with some critics saying he might turn to "pork barrel" policies in the run-up to a string of local elections in April.

The premier, meanwhile, has decided to roughly double Japan's defense spending over the next five years and to acquire enemy base strike capabilities to deter attacks in a major shift in security policy amid mounting regional military threats.

The Kishida administration has voiced its readiness to raise corporate, income and tobacco taxes "at an appropriate time" in fiscal 2024 or later to secure roughly 1 trillion yen ($7.5 billion) in fiscal 2027 to beef up Japan's defense capabilities.

Related coverage:

Japan births hit all-time low in 2022, below 800,000 for 1st time

FOCUS: Kishida set to be asked to boost economy after tapping new BOJ chief

Gov't revises PM's pledge to double Japan's budget for children