Japan's child poverty guidelines eye more social workers, tutoring

Japan's child poverty guidelines eye more social workers, tutoring
Picture of Ririko Saito and her 11-year-old daughter Yumi eating dinner together, one of only two meals they have a day in an attempt to keep household costs low, at their apartment in Tokyo on May 14, 2014. Japan's child poverty rate has hit a record high, according to a government survey, prompting criticism that Tokyo was not doing enough to fix the problem.

JAPAN - The government plans to increase the number of social workers and free tutoring to tackle child poverty issues, according to the final draft of the guidelines on child poverty obtained recently by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The guidelines, the first of their kind to be compiled by the government, will address the nation's problem of child poverty and explore ways to improve the conditions of children living in poverty.

The draft outline sets the following targets to be achieved within five years:

-Increase the number of school social workers who deal with and help solve children's problems from the current 1,500 to 10,000 and station them at municipalities across the nation.

-Increase the number of middle schools where university students and former teachers, among others, provide free tutoring from the current 700 to 5,000.

The government plans to approve the draft outline at a Cabinet meeting this week.

The child poverty rate in 2012 was a record 16.3 per cent, according to a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry survey on children under 18. The figure represents the more than 3 million children in the nation who are living in poverty.

The outline will likely emphasise a fundamental principle that stipulates the eradication of "the current situation in which children's future is strongly influenced by the environment they grow up in and the cycle of generational poverty."

Under the basic principle, the outline will also incorporate efforts in the following six fields from fiscal year 2015:

-Education support

-Livelihood support

-Job assistance for parents

-Financial aid

-Research and study

-Systems to promote related measures

As the main approach, schools will be considered "platforms to work out measures to tackle child poverty," where school social workers deal with such issues as poverty and abuse.

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