Strengthen support for neediest to ease anxiety amid ongoing pandemic

The prolonged novel coronavirus pandemic has had a serious impact on households raising children. Measures should be taken to ease anxiety in their livelihoods.

The government has decided to use about ¥220 billion from the fiscal 2020 budget reserve fund to provide emergency assistance to low-income families with children. In addition to single-parent families, two-parent families will be newly eligible for the assistance.

In households where unstable jobs such as non-regular work are supporting the family, there are many workers who have been forced to leave their jobs or work shorter hours due to the spread of the coronavirus, resulting in a decrease in their income.

Spring is also a time when parents have to spend much money to raise their children mainly because the children are advancing to the next grade in school. A wide range of support should be provided.

In fiscal 2020, the government provided special benefits to needy single-parent, child-rearing households on two occasions: ¥50,000 for the first child and ¥30,000 for the second and subsequent children. But it has been pointed out that households with two parents are not eligible for such support even if they were low-income households, and more support should be provided to them.

This time, the amount of the special benefits for the second and subsequent children reportedly will be raised to ¥50,000.

There seem to be many households in which it is difficult for both parents to work due to illness or other reasons, or households in which it is hard to make ends meet even if they earn money by themselves. The expansion of eligibility is appropriate.

The special benefits are expected to be provided to 1.04 million single-parent households that are receiving the child-rearing allowance and other support, and 1.3 million two-parent households that are exempt from paying resident tax.

Unlike single-parent households, which already have a record of receiving the special benefits, support for two-parent households could take time, mainly while local governments engage in the procedures. The central government must cooperate with local governments to ensure smooth payment of the special benefits.

There is no sign of the coronavirus being brought under control, and the employment situation is unpredictable. It is important to support people on multiple levels so that they do not fall into poverty.

The government has decided to extend the deadline to apply for the living expenses loan system, which was expanded as part of the coronavirus countermeasures, from the end of March to the end of June. The system is an emergency petty loan of ¥200,000, mainly to those who have been put on leave, and a comprehensive support loan of ¥200,000 a month to unemployed people and others.

It is essential not only to stabilize people’s lives for the time being, but also secure their employment opportunities by improving their professional skills.

The government plans to expand job training sessions in digital-related fields and double the capacity from the current 2,500 people. Employment in growth areas should be further promoted.

A number of people have limited access to information about these support systems due to the lack an online communication environment. The government should work with local governments, nonprofit organizations and other entities to devise ways of transmitting information about how to use these systems in an easy-to-understand manner.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 31, 2021.