In reaction to the growing number of divorces in Japan, the government said Friday it will restrict single mothers’ eligibility to receive child-care benefits.

As a result of the day’s Cabinet decision to amend an ordinance on child-care benefits, single mothers will have to be earning far less in order to be eligible for the maximum monthly benefit. The restriction will be effective Aug. 1.

Furthermore, 80 percent of child support paid by fathers will also be counted in the annual income of single-mother households. Under the current system, such support is not factored in when calculating annual income.

A tax deduction for widows will also be eliminated.

To be eligible for the maximum 42,370 yen monthly benefit for a household comprising a mother and one child, for example, the woman’s annual income will have to be less than 1.3 million yen after Aug. 1.

Benefits will be cut at a rate of 170 yen for each 10,000 yen earned in excess of the 1.3 million yen annual income cap.

Currently, a single mother earning less than 2,048,000 yen is eligible for full benefits.

Also, single mothers earning between 1.3 million yen and 3 million yen are eligible at present to receive a flat rate of 28,350 yen per month.

This flat-rate allowance will be replaced by a pro rata scheme that covers incomes up to 3.65 million yen.

The number of divorces has almost doubled in Japan since 1990, and the total amount of child-care allowances paid by the government has increased to 260 billion yen from 220 billion yen in the past decade, according to government statistics.

In fiscal 2000, about 620,000 people received allowances due to divorce, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. This represents nearly 90 percent of the total number of people who received child-care allowances. The total amount paid out stood at about 260 billion yen, it added.

The announced change has been met with outrage by critics, who say it will place additional burdens on people who are already in financially unstable positions.

But the government has countered by pointing out that it has submitted related bills, such as those placing priority on helping children in single-mother households to enter nurseries and providing subsidies to business owners who employ women raising children on their own.

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