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New Japan gov't guidelines on child poverty use more indices to assess life improvement

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, participates in a meeting on measures against child poverty at the prime minister's office on Nov. 29, 2019. (Mainichi/Naotsune Umemura)

TOKYO -- The government reviewed its guidelines for measures against child poverty for the first time in five years, and received Cabinet approval on new guidelines Nov. 29. Where there were 25 indices, there are now 39 indices to verify whether a child's living conditions have improved.

Following the implementation of the Child Poverty Act in January 2014, the original guidelines were drawn up in August of the same year as measures and policies to prevent the cycle of poverty from parent to child. The guidelines were to be reviewed every five years, of which this year is one, and a Cabinet Office expert committee had been debating the content.

Under the new guidelines, the basic policy is "seamless support from a parent's pregnancy to a child's independence in society," placing a heavy focus on swift recognition of problems and issues, and the provision of diverse types of assistance that correspond to the various stages of life. Items that were newly added as indices to verify whether life conditions have improved include rates at which a child's household was unable to pay its utility bills, to buy sufficient food or clothing, and the ratio of single-parent households in which the parent is permanently employed.

Meanwhile, some indices that had been included previously, such as the employment rate of single-parent households after graduation from junior high school or high school were eliminated, as their links to poverty were difficult to determine.

As important measures implemented toward improving poverty indices, the government pointed to the move to make early childhood education and daycare free from October, university tuition waiver programs and scholarships, and self-reliance support for parents in needy households.

Child poverty rates are defined as the rate of children under the age of 18 who live in households whose incomes do not reach half of Japan's average income. According to the Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions, the rate dropped from 16.3% in 2012 to 13.9% in 2015.

(Japanese original by Takuya Murata, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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