• Kyodo

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Incidents of reported child abuse in Japan reached a record high in fiscal 2015, with the number of cases handled by welfare officials surpassing 100,000 for the first time, a government survey showed Thursday.

Psychological abuse, including witnessing domestic violence, showed a notable increase. Experts say growing income inequality and isolation of families from local communities were raising the risk of spousal abuse.

A total of 103,260 cases were handled at child consultation centers nationwide in the year through March, up 16 percent from the year before and marking the 25th consecutive annual increase since the government started taking tallies in fiscal 1990, according to the preliminary report.

The number of psychological abuse cases made up nearly half of the total at 48,693, up from 38,775 cases reported the year before, followed by 28,611 cases of physical abuse, 24,438 cases of neglect and 1,518 cases of sexual abuse, the survey said.

The results also highlighted the overwhelming workload of the country’s roughly 200 child consultation centers that respond to children in need of help. Workers who had handled 36 abuse cases that resulted in children’s deaths in fiscal 2013 were found to have been in charge of 109 cases a year on average.

Japan amended its laws in May to ensure a full range of specialists handled abuse cases. It also set a target to employ 550 more child welfare officials by fiscal 2019.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry also created a new three-digit child abuse hotline in July last year in place of the previous 10-digit number. It said the number of consultation calls made last fiscal year nearly tripled from the previous year to 29,000.

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