• Kyodo

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Japan's government has decided to create a database that will store various information about the country's children, such as their academic abilities and their family's economic conditions, in an attempt to prevent child poverty and abuse, a source familiar with the plan said Tuesday.

By integrating such data, which is often collected separately by the welfare and education sections of municipal governments, officials hope to quickly identify children in need of assistance and provide support.

The government is seeking to introduce the database across the country as early as fiscal 2023 as part of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's policy to promote the digital transformation of society, according to the source.

A meeting of vice ministers will be held, possibly by the end of this month, on creating the database, with the government also planning to craft guidelines on how personal information should be handled.

Japan has a relatively high child poverty rate among major economies, with 14.0% of those age 17 and under living in households with incomes below half the national median disposable income as of 2018, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The child poverty rate that year was 12.4% in the U.K., 11.8% in Canada and 11.7% in France. In the United States, it stood at 21.2% as of 2017.

The coronavirus pandemic has made the situation worse for children, welfare experts say, as economic hardship has led to smaller meals and more serious abuses.

The database has also been suggested to overcome hesitancy among children and parents in seeking assistance from local authorities when they face difficulties.

With the launch of the new system, the government plans to store data such as welfare benefit records and school expense subsidies, as well as the results of academic and physical tests at schools, according to the source.

The government believes the database will pave the way for quicker assistance for struggling children and their guardians.

Koji Ogawa, who heads a group called Asunoba that helps families in poverty, said he is closely watching the effort by the government.

"Support that does not need to be applied for is needed," he said, noting that many people feel too ashamed to ask for public assistance.

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