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Last March, the number of individuals receiving seikatsu hogo (financial assistance from the government) exceeded 2.1 million people, the first time the record had been surpassed since 1951. Payouts this year are likely to exceed ¥3.7 trillion.

Based on the 2007 figures, Japan’s ratio of public benefit levels relative to median income, 49 percent, was 8 points above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 41 percent, making its payments proportionally higher than in Britain, Sweden and Germany.

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