The government's recent move to beef up countermeasures against child poverty was motivated by the falling approval rate of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following the passage of the controversial security-related legislation in September.
The Japanese government has been slow in responding to child poverty issues in the country, and the latest policies are only the start of anti-poverty actions for children.
The issue of child poverty started drawing attention in the mid-2000s. As the widening income gap was becoming more evident, the "cycle of poverty" -- where children from financially struggling families grow up to be poor -- became a social problem. However, policies focusing on children in poverty did not move forward.
Lawmakers submitted a child poverty countermeasures bill to the Diet and it was passed into law in 2013 -- backed by the ruling coalition as it looked to fend off criticism for cutting welfare payments.
The outlines for the child poverty countermeasures drawn up in August last year following the enactment of the legislation, however, did not include numerical targets such as how much poverty rates should be cut, raising questions among private organizations that fight poverty about the effectiveness of the measures. In addition, the outlines did not include financial support measures. As of the end of summer, the government had only set up a campaign with leaders in different sectors to call for donations from people for children in poverty.
The tide shifted in July as deliberation over the security bills entered the final stretch in the House of Representatives. As the approval rate for the Abe Cabinet started to drop amid confusion among people about the legislation, policies to tackle child poverty were brought under the spotlight as one of measures to improve the approval rate.
Studies on support measures for single parent households began at the end of August, and countermeasures against child poverty were included in the "dynamic engagement of all citizens" road map as a core policy under the new Cabinet that was reshuffled in October.
A source related to the Cabinet Office said, "If it were not for the security legislation, we would not have been able to expand the support measures (for children in poverty) this quickly."