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LDP acts to make good on campaign pledge to trim welfare by 10%; exception likely for elderly

Public handouts to the poor to be cut

Kyodo

Welfare minister Norihisa Tamura said Wednesday that welfare payments to the poor will be cut across the board, reflecting a government panel’s finding that some are receiving more money each month than what low-income workers spend on average.

He spoke to reporters in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, after the panel, under the Social Security Council, reported its findings.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry as well as the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, New Komeito, will decide the rate of reduction by the end of this month in the process of compiling the state budget for fiscal 2013, starting in April.

During the campaign for the general election last month, the LDP vowed a 10 percent cut in welfare payments, which have not changed since fiscal 2004.

According to the ministry, a couple with two children under 18 on welfare receives around ¥186,000 a month on national average, compared with ¥159,000 spent by a low-income working household.

To determine this second amount, the ministry divided all national households into 10 categories by income level, and compared the base welfare payment to the average spent by the lowest-income working households.

In a report issued Wednesday, a panel under the Social Security Council, however, said seniors could be excluded from the reduction, as those aged 60 or older who live alone receive ¥73,000 but spend ¥77,000.

Referring to the current welfare system, under which families with several members are treated more favorably than single-person households, Tamura said, “We will make an effort to ensure a reasonable system,” hinting that large households on welfare will likely face more serious payment cuts.

As of last September, some 2.13 million people from about 1.56 million households were on welfare, both record highs. More than 40 percent of the households’ members were 65 or older.