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The number of children under 18 orphaned by suicides last year is estimated to have reached about 12,000, a report released by an educational organization revealed Friday.

A total of 13,771 men and 4,294 women between the ages of 25 and 59 thought likely to be supporting children reportedly killed themselves last year, according to the Ashinaga Scholarship Society.

Corporate restructuring and overwork against the backdrop of the prolonged recession are believed to be the main reasons behind the suicides, officials of the Tokyo-based society said.

They said the group will actively support these children so they can get a higher education and psychological care.

The number of orphaned children estimated by the report was calculated by multiplying the total number of the suicides in each age bracket by the average number of children they are likely to have.

The number of children estimated to have lost their fathers reached 8,988, while the approximate number of children who lost their mothers reached 2,791, according to the report.

The total, 11,779, implies that an average of 32 children were orphaned daily in 1998.

That rate is about four times the rate for parents killed in traffic accidents.

Last year, the number of suicides hit a record high of 32,863, up 35 percent from the previous year and exceeding 30,000 line for the first time.

Since the statistics showed a steep rise in the number of suicides related to economic reasons, especially among workers in their 40s and 50s, it is believed that the recession, and the subsequent restructuring undertaken by ailing firms, was the main cause of suicides last year.

Until now, the Ashinaga Scholarship Society has supported children orphaned by suicides as part of its program to help those who lose parents in disasters. However, the society is now considering creating a special program, given the surge in parent suicides, a society official said.

In a ceremony Friday in Tokyo’s Shibuya district to open the association’s annual fundraising campaign, two people gave speeches about their experiences as orphans.

An 18-year-old male student from Saitama Prefecture who lost his father told an audience: “I felt there was a stigma attached to my father’s death. But I now feel that I want to help other children, as many as possible, who lost parents to suicide and have experienced the same feelings I have.”

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