1 of 5 | Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers a policy speech Monday during the Lower House's plenary session at the National Diet in Tokyo. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida unveiled "unprecedented'' spending plans on Monday designed to tackle the country's plunging birthrate and guarantee its national security.
In a policy speech to the National Diet, Japan's parliament, Kishida told lawmakers they must back measures to drastically boost child-care support for families and double defense spending to pull the country back from the brink of dysfunction.
"Our country is on the brink of being unable to maintain the functions of society," he said, referring to a birthrate that fell below 800,000 in 2022 for the first time as Japan's population continues to decline.
Parents currently receive $115 a month for each child up to age 3 and then $76.50 a month until the child graduates junior high school at around age 15.
Kishida said he wanted his newly created Child and Families Agency to oversee a two-fold increase in spending related to child-rearing in a bid to reverse the falling birthrate that is putting the brakes on productivity growth.
"Policies on children and child care are the most effective investment for the future," Kishida said, without giving details of how it would be paid for.
On defense, Kishida said his government would seek to raise funds to double spending to $328.8 billion, or 2% of GDP, over the next five years in line with NATO member countries.
The new money will enable Japan to acquire a counterstrike capability and an enlarged presence of its Self Defense Forces in the Nansei Islands.
Lawmakers backed the defense spending hike last month but there is no timetable for when the tax hikes needed to fund it will be implemented.
However, bringing the plans to fruition may not be smooth sailing. Defense remains a highly controversial issue in Japan, with large sections of society opposing moving away from the idea that the country's military should be small and for defense purposes only.
An opinion poll released last week found slightly more than half of respondents oppose raising taxes to boost defense spending.
Kishida's speech follows other moves from the Japanese government to tackle the birthrate decline and a pivot on defense strategy.
Japan is offering families who live in Tokyo 1 million yen ($7,500) per child to move into other towns and villages in an effort to revive areas with declining birthrates and aging populations.
In December, the government released a new National Security Strategy that enshrined military changes in three security documents, including a controversial provision that would allow the Japanese military to hit enemy bases and command-and-control nodes with longer-range standoff missiles. Some have criticized the change as unconstitutional.
Earlier this month, Kishida signed an agreement with Britain to deploy forces in one another's countries.
Japan has long been a pacifist country whose military strategy has been defense-oriented.