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The Hatoyama administration has decided to revive the once-abolished allowance for single-parent households on welfare with children aged 18 or younger. This is the first social welfare-related measure included in the Democratic Party of Japan’s election manifesto to be implemented. The allowance began this month.

About 100,000 households are eligible for the allowance. About ¥20,000 a month is given for the first child and several thousand yen a month for each additional child. Some ¥7.7 billion is needed for the allowance in fiscal 2009.

The allowance had been reduced in phases by the previous administration of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, starting in fiscal 2005, and was abolished last April. In aiming to reduce expenditure on livelihood assistance, which was reaching some ¥3 trillion a year, the LDP and Komeito took into account the fact that the standard income of single-parent households on welfare and receiving the allowance topped the average consumer spending of single-parent households not on welfare.

So, the previous administration introduced two separate allowances for single-parent households on welfare: one for those where the parent was either working or receiving vocational training, and another for those that included a high school student.

Although the measure designed to encourage parents to work seemed reasonable in theory, the reality was harsh. In about 20 percent of the nation’s single-parent households, parents cannot work. Many are sickly, suffer mental disability or have children with serious chronic illness or disability.

Mothers in about 40 percent of the nation’s single-parent households are employed irregularly and their wages are low. Given current economic conditions, it is hard for them to find permanent jobs. The allowance should be continued as a means of supporting children who will build the future of Japan. The government should pay serious attention to the fact that, in a 2007 welfare ministry survey, 15.7 percent of people lived in “relative poverty” or had income less than half (¥1.14 million) of the median annual income (¥2.28 million).

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