Japan sets 12 indexes to address child poverty

Japan sets 12 indexes to address child poverty

The government has drawn up draft guidelines to aid children from poor families in their access to education, employment and other opportunities, with 12 criteria established to clarify the circumstances surrounding such children, according to government sources.

The 12 criteria cover such matters as the percentage of children from families on welfare who are attending high school and the percentage of children from single-parent households who have obtained jobs.

A set of key government measures are included in the plan to improve the living, educational and other conditions of children in poverty over the next five years, the sources said, with hopes to adopt the draft guidelines as a Cabinet decision in early August.

According to the guidelines, the nation's child poverty rate stood at 15.7 per cent in 2009, the 10th highest among the 34 member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The rate refers to children under 18 who are living in households with an annual income below the poverty line. In 2012, the poverty line was set at ¥1.22 million.

The child poverty rate released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry this month for 2012 was a record high of 16.3 per cent. This can be attributed partly to a growing number of single-mother families stemming from an increase in divorce rates, but observers also said the nation's social security system is heavily weighted toward the elderly, failing to provide enough supportive measures for the poor in the working population.

Factoring these points in, the draft outline was drawn up with the aim of breaking the generational cycle in which children born and raised in poor families tend to fall into poverty themselves after they grow up.

Some of the 12 criteria include:

-High school enrollment rate among children from families on welfare benefits

-High school enrollment rate and employment rate among children from single-parent families

-High school enrollment rate and employment rate among children in child welfare facilities

The high school enrollment rate of children from families on welfare benefits was 90.8 per cent in 2013, compared to the national rate at 98.6 per cent-a gap the government is aiming to narrow.

The government will carry out concrete support measures in the next five years in five fields including education, living, job assistance for parents and financial aid. The draft outlined the following key measures:

-Promote a plan to make preschool education tuition-free

-Improve a learning assistance programme in cooperation with nonprofit organisations and other entities

-Improve student loan programs and create a system to match the amount of repayment with each recipient's income level after graduation

-Enhance cooperation between schools and welfare-related organisations.

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