Number of Japanese households on welfare hits record high

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YAMAGATA – The number of households living on welfare hit a record high 1,634,185 in December, the government said Wednesday.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry attributed the figure, up 1,965 from the previous month, to an increase in households consisting of elderly people living alone with no outside income coming in.

The number of welfare-dependent households consisting of persons aged 65 or older reached 805,723, up by 1,877 from the previous month and accounting for 49.6 percent of the total. Of those, more than 90 percent consisted of a single individual, according to data released by the ministry.

The number of individuals on welfare was 2,165,585, up 1,210 from November. The number accounts for 1.71 percent of the nation’s total population, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the number of households with children living in poverty has doubled over a 20-year period from 1992, according to the findings of an academic study released Tuesday.

The research by Kensaku Tomuro, an associate professor at Yamagata University, found that the proportion of households with children under 18 living on an income below the minimum level of public assistance rose to 13.8 percent of such households in 2012, compared with 5.4 percent in 1992.

That translates into about 1.46 million households out of around 10.50 million in 2012, compared with roughly 700,000 households out of about 13.00 million in 1992.

Among the country’s 47 prefectures, Okinawa accounted for the highest child poverty rate, at 37.5 percent, followed by Osaka at 21.8 percent and Kagoshima at 20.6 percent, with relatively higher rates observed in western Japan than eastern Japan.

“Child poverty is worsening across the country,” Tomuro said, drawing on his findings.

Tomuro used government statistics to obtain an accurate picture of households with children living on an income below the minimum level of welfare benefits.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare calculates the “child poverty rate,” which refers to under-18s in households living on less than half the national median income.

According to a survey released in 2014, the ministry said the proportion of children living below the poverty line increased to 16.3 percent in 2012, marking the worst year on record.