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The Diet enacted March 26 a bill to provide a child allowance of ¥13,000 per month per child in fiscal 2010. The new measure is an important addition to government efforts to support families raising children.

The allowance will apply until a child graduates from middle school. In fiscal 2010, a total of ¥2.255 trillion will be paid to parents of 17.35 million children, some 5 million more than are presently covered by a similar but limited allowance. In principle, parents will apply to municipal offices to receive the allowance. The payments will be made three times a year, with the first scheduled for June.

Equity must be ensured with regard to social welfare and tax matters, but the Hatoyama administration should ignore calls to reduce the allowance for “high-income” families. In practical terms, this would place an overwhelming burden on municipal offices, which would have to assess each household’s income. The administration should pursue the idea of combining the child allowance with an adequately progressive income tax. It should consistently reinforce the philosophy behind the allowance: It is based on the view that society as a whole is responsibile for child rearing and hence for giving adequate support to all child-rearing families, irrespective of income levels.

The administration plans to boost the allowance to ¥26,000 from fiscal 2011, which would take the total cost to ¥5.4 trillion a year. This may prove impossible to implement, considering other needs that exist. Child-related services such as nursery schools require improvement. As of Oct. 1, an estimated 46,000 children were unable to gain access to such facilities. The government must make best use of limited funds, but it is important to make the allowance permanent, even at the lower amount, so that families can plan ahead.

Two clauses are in need of adjustment. Foreigners likely to live in Japan for one year or longer can receive the child allowance even for children living abroad. On the other hand, the allowance does not cover Japanese children living in Japan if their parents live abroad. Both points must be rectified.

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