National

Unmarried single parents to become eligible for state support

Kyodo

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare plans to revise the law on child-rearing support to reduce fees for child care facilities for unmarried single parents as well as letting them take tax deductions, officials said Tuesday.

Currently, people who become single parents through the death of their spouse, but also through divorce, are eligible for lower fees for child care and other relevant state support provided to widows and widowers. But those who become single parents without having married are not eligible.

The ministry plans to make the legal revision take effect starting next April, the officials said.

Fees to be lowered for single parents who have never married include those for facilities for taking care of infants and children.

The ministry will also consider whether to allow similar reductions for their use of facilities for physically handicapped children or for medical services for children with intractable diseases.

The ministry estimates around 2,700 such single parents will become newly eligible for lower service fees through the envisioned law change. The ministry plans to include relevant expenses in its budgetary request for fiscal 2018.

According to the ministry’s triennial survey released in June, 13.9 percent of children under age 18 — one child in every seven — were in households living on less than half of the national median household disposable income as of 2015.

The “relative poverty rate” among single-parent households was as high as 50.8 percent.

As of August last year, around 20 percent of city and other municipal offices had taken steps to provide financial support for unmarried single-parent households.

In 2009, three unmarried single mothers filed a petition for help with the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, claiming that their ineligibility for the exemption for widows was discriminatory.

In 2013, the federation asked the central government and the women’s local governments to grant them the exemption.

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