June 16, 2011

JAPAN: Number of people receiving welfare tops 2 million

TOKYO / The Japan Times / Life in Japan / Kyodo / June 16, 2011

The number of welfare recipients in Japan exceeded two million for the first time in almost 60 years in March due to a weak economy and the country's ageing population, the Health Ministry said, weighing on its already tattered public finances. Photo: AFP (See related report)

There were 2.02 million people receiving welfare as of March, close to the record 2.04 million in the aftermath of World War II, while the number of households on welfare in March hit an all-time high of 1.46 million, the government said.

The total number of people was almost equivalent to the record monthly average of about 2.04 million logged in fiscal 1952, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Tuesday.

A total of 549 households began to receive welfare benefits in March and April after losing their homes and jobs as a result of the March 11 calamity, including the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Of the 549 households, 268 were headed by a person of working age, the ministry said.

The figure, however, excludes data from municipalities heavily hit by the disaster, including Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.

The number of welfare recipients across the nation is believed to have topped the 2 million mark in February as data from Fukushima Prefecture were unavailable due to the disasters. The figure for February was 1.99 million without the data from Fukushima.

Under the welfare benefit system, assistance is given to a household when its total income fails to match the minimum cost of living designated by the government.

(C) The Japan Times