The government is considering enacting a law aimed at bettering the living standards and education of the indigenous Ainu, who traditionally resided in Hokkaido, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.

According to the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, led by Chairman Tadashi Kato, the government enacted legislation to promote traditional Ainu culture in 1997 but failed to provide real support for their lives and education, saying some of the measures had already been taken by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government. Kato thus approached the government in March to propose additional steps.

"There is a need to address a broad range of issues including measures to improve (Ainu people's) lives . . . We would also like to consider whether there is a need to take comprehensive legislative measures," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference Tuesday.

In a survey by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government in 2013 covering 66 municipalities with Ainu residents, the university enrollment rate for Ainu was 25.8 percent, 17.2 points lower than the average.

Kazushi Abe, deputy chairman of the Ainu association, said he would welcome such legislation because improving education and income levels could help eliminate lingering discrimination against the indigenous people.

The Ainu lived for centuries in Hokkaido and nearby areas including Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. They have their own language and customs, which they have struggled to pass down since the Japanese government adopted an assimilation policy during the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

Japan recognized the Ainu as "indigenous people" in 2008 and is planning to open facilities to promote their culture in Hokkaido in 2020, when Japan hosts the Olympics.