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The April 1 start to the new fiscal year brings with it a number of increases in the cost of living.

With tax hikes lurking around the next corner, people must first face higher social security payments.

The basic premium for the National Pension system has been raised from 13,860 yen to 13,580 yen, in line with the ruling coalition’s unpopular revisions to the pension system laws in 2004.

Nursing-care insurance premiums for people over 64 also have been increased by 24 percent to an average of 4,090 yen a month.

The disabled must now pay 10 percent of the charges for welfare services, which, until now, have been free.

For drivers, compulsory automobile liability insurance premiums are up 900 yen to 30,680 yen for a two-year contract.

On the brighter side, families are now entitled to receive child-rearing allowance until their kids finish the sixth grade, up from the third grade. That change was initiated by New Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner.

People who make their homes more resistant to earthquakes can now deduct up to 200,000 yen, or 10 percent of the expenses, when they file their income tax returns.

By law, companies now must employ their workers until they reach legal retirement age. Legal proceedings for labor disputes, including nonpayment of wages, are expected to be processed more efficiently with the April 1 launch of the labor-judgment system, for which two citizens will adjudicate each case.

Companies may also have to contend with more whistle-blowers, who are now officially protected under the law from unfair dismissal or punishment by their employers.

In the marketplace, regulations were to have begun Saturday requiring all electrical products to have PSE stickers showing they have been certified safe. PSE stands for product safety of electric appliances and materials.

However, the government recently was forced to back away from that decision after an outcry from dealers in secondhand goods, although they have said the shops must promise to conduct safety inspections of their products sometime in the future.

The One Seg service is also now available to people with tuner-equipped cell phones. People in big cities across 29 prefectures can watch TV shows through ground digital broadcasting on specially equipped mobile phones.

Regulations on banking have been relaxed to enable supermarkets and automobile sales-outlets to offer some services.

Meanwhile, insurance companies are legally required to explain their products in clear language and fully explain the risks involves.

Domestic air fares at the major carriers — Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways — are now 4 percent more expensive one way on average due to the surging price of jet fuel, and four power utilities will offer lower rates for service to homes by as much as 263 yen a month.