• Kyodo News

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The number of children who received public financial support for basic school activities such as for school supplies and excursions hit a record high of 1.49 million last fiscal year, education ministry sources said Saturday.

The financial support for elementary and junior high school students is provided by local governments to households living on welfare and other families in similar “financial difficulties.”

According to the ministry, 136,648 children belonged to households living on welfare in fiscal 2009, up 5,616 from the previous year.

Meanwhile, another 1.351 million children were in “financial difficulties” in the same period, up 46,366.

The total number, which has nearly doubled in the past 15 years, reflects growing poverty amid the economic slump, ministry officials said.

“The economic situation has not started picking up yet, so we are concerned that the number (of applicants) will increase further,” a ministry official said.

At public schools, 15 percent of children received support. By prefecture, the ratio was highest in Osaka with 27 percent, followed by Yamaguchi with 24 percent, Tokyo with 23 percent, and Hokkaido and Kochi with 22 percent each.

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