Whose social infrastructure? Young children’s green space access during daycare in aging Japan

Authors: Christoph Rupprecht*, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Asia, Applied Geography
Keywords: environmental justice, children's geography, health, play, recreation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Blue Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Access to green space is vital for children’s physical and mental health. However, many urban daycare centers in Japan struggle to provide dedicated gardens due to high urban land prices and limited government support. This is especially true for unlicensed daycare centers, a privately-owned facility type quickly growing in response to rapidly rising demand for daycare due to increased female labor force participation. To compensate for the lack of garden space, staff in these facilities often take children to public parks for outdoor recreation. Yet the resulting intensive park use can lead to conflicts with other users as well as overuse and high green space maintenance costs, issues that have received considerable media attention.
Part of a larger project on understanding threats to young children’s green space access, this first stage examines the issue from the perspective of caregivers in unlicensed daycare centers. Based on a 2018 mixed quantitative-qualitative postal survey of facilities (n=173) in 14 major Japanese cities, standard practices to secure green space access, experience of conflicts and strategies to negotiate with other users, willingness to pay to support maintenance costs, ideas for communal park management, and caregivers’ attitudes on the role of green space access for children’s development are analyzed. Results suggest local neighborhood parks are a vital social infrastructure for young children in daycare. Yet they also show that access to parks can be precarious and dependent on caregivers’ negotiations, raising questions of social and environmental justice for a rapidly aging society.

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