Mother-friendly society 'key to stop falling birthrates'

US First Lady Michelle Obama (3rd R), US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (2nd R) and her son Jack Schlossberg (R) watch a student perform a Noh play during a visit to the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto on March 20, 2015.

US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, who accompanied Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on his visit to the United States, agreed to an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun shortly after returning to Japan.

Kennedy called for joint efforts to create a society where anyone can have a better life. In seeing her adopt such a stance, I felt her high spirits and sense of responsibility, similar to her late father, US President John F. Kennedy.

Since 2000, Save the Children has released the Mothers' Index, which ranks countries according to the well-being of their mothers. Both Japan and the United States slumped due to the poor participation of women in national government. In other categories, however, the United States ranked among the top nations in terms of educational and economic status, while Japan ranked high in health-related divisions.

In Japan, people are not fully aware of the connection between women's participation in politics and the happiness of mothers. But in Scandinavian and other countries, where women's political participation is high, child-support measures have been proactively implemented, some of which are instrumental in curbing falling birthrates.

"In society where mothers are disrespected, children are also treated badly," said Yoko Ono, an advocacy specialist of Save the Children Japan. "For children, we should support mothers first."

As the ambassador said, realizing a mother-friendly society is the crucial first step toward stopping declining birthrates.