Okinawa to establish 3 billion yen fund to tackle child poverty

January 29, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

On January 28, findings of an actual condition survey conducted by the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) revealed that Okinawa’s child poverty rate is 29.9 percent. It is the first time in Japan for the poverty rate at a prefectural level to be published. The finding shows that one out of three children in Okinawa is living in poverty. The result highlights that Okinawa’s rate is close to double the nationwide poverty rate of 16.3 percent as last issued in 2012. To deal with this severe child poverty, the OPG is considering establishing a fund of three billion yen.

The OPG collected data about resident-registry networks and residents’ income from all municipalities in Okinawa to calculate the poverty rate and compared the data of eight municipalities with the nationwide poverty rate. In eight municipalities, the poverty rate for children under 18 years old makes up the majority. On January 29, the OPG held a press conference and presented an interim report on the poverty rate and questionnaires completed by elementary and junior high school students and guardians.

The OPG’s fund is available for the prefectural economic development project from the fiscal year of 2016 to 2021. The OPG made a final adjustment to allocate the money for the year 2016. The government’s pending “(Tentative) Child Poverty Countermeasure Promotion Plan” will be decided within the fiscal year of 2015 and executed in 2016. Once the fund is established, it will be reflected in the plan.

“A review meeting group to tackle Okinawa’s child poverty,” which consists of the outside experts to develop a plan, pointed out that municipal support, such as school expense subsidies, has not reached people in need. Using the fund, the OPG is considering supporting municipal projects.

As a countermeasure for child poverty, the Cabinet Office Okinawa is allocating one billion yen from the 2016 project and supports to provide places and assign supporters. Therefore, the OPG is considering projects that do not overlap with the Cabinet Office’s projects.

(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana) 

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