- GENERAL NEWS
Applications for welfare benefits rise for 1st time in 11 years
16:12 JST, June 2, 2021
More than 228,000 applications for welfare benefits were submitted in fiscal 2020, up 2.3% from the previous year to mark the first rise in 11 years, according to preliminary data compiled by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
The increase in the number of people who have lost their jobs or suffered decreases in income amid the novel coronavirus pandemic is thought to be behind the surge in applications.
According to the data, 228,081 applications for welfare benefits were submitted during the fiscal year ending in March, up 5,039 from the previous year. It is the first increase since fiscal 2009, when the number of applications surged in the aftermath of the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.
Applications for welfare benefits are processed by prefectural and municipal governments. The number of applications surged in April last year when the government declared a coronavirus state of emergency for the first time. About 21,000 applications were filed that month, up 25% or 4,287 from the same month in the previous year. Many applications were filed by business operators and people working in the food service and tourism industries.
The year-on-year figure has continued to rise for seven consecutive months since September. The number surged significantly by about 1,100 to 1,800 per month from December when some local governments issued requests for dining establishments to shorten business hours due to the third wave of infections.
A total of 1,641,536 households had received welfare benefits as of March this year, up 6,336 from the same month in the previous year. Of those, 247,682 were not categorized as elderly or single-parent households, up 6,521 from a year earlier.
According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the average unemployment rate stood at 2.9% in fiscal 2020, marking the first rise in 11 years since fiscal 2009. The severe employment situation is believed to have triggered the increase in the number of applicants for welfare benefits.
According to the welfare ministry, applications for benefits rose by about 100,000 in fiscal 2009, to 350,000.
The ministry believes that the smaller increase in the number of applicants from fiscal 2019 to 2020 is because of the so-called “second safety net,” such as two interest-free loan programs that are meant to be steps people can take before applying for welfare benefits.
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