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The number of new requests for advice from people in need, received by local governments across Japan, more than tripled in fiscal 2020 from the previous year, the welfare ministry said this week in a preliminary report.

The surge is believed to reflect a steep increase in the number of consultations from people who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of new requests for advice totaled 786,195 in the 12 months to March this year, up from 248,398 in fiscal 2019, according to a tally released Monday of data from 906 local governments that have welfare offices to give advice to those in need.

A comparison between January 2020, before virus infections spread in Japan, and January 2021 shows that consultations from men in their 20s and 30s both jumped about fourfold.

The largest monthly total during fiscal 2020 was registered in April, when the government’s first COVID-19 state of emergency was declared.

In a survey, more than 80% of 507 responding local governments said the number of consultations had increased from self-employed people, as well as nonregular workers who were dismissed or failed to extend their contracts.

The welfare ministry also said it approved 134,946 rent subsidy applications from people who lost their jobs or closed their businesses in fiscal 2020, about 34 times the level seen the previous year.

On Monday, the ministry held the first meeting of an experts’ panel to examine how it can help people in need to get on their feet. Participants discussed ways to strengthen support while analyzing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on such people.

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