In 2023, there was a renewed increase in requests for government assistance attributed to financial strain.

In 2023, the consecutive yearly rise in households facing financial strain and seeking public assistance continued in Japan, fueled by recent inflation exacerbating the challenges stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, according to data from the welfare ministry released on Wednesday.

New applications for welfare benefits surged by 7.6 percent compared to the previous year, reaching 255,079, marking the highest level since 2013 when comparable data began, as reported by the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry.

The data indicates that certain segments of society are not experiencing wage increases that keep pace with inflation, despite government encouragement for companies to provide better support to their employees.

Financial aid is extended to households unable to maintain a basic standard of living, as defined by the ministry, even after utilizing their assets and sources of income from employment, social security benefits, or familial assistance.

Applicants’ income is evaluated, and the government disburses funds to ensure that the household income meets a minimum threshold, varying depending on household size and whether they reside in urban or rural areas.

According to the ministry, the increase in applications is driven by individuals who experienced income reductions due to the pandemic and are now tapping into their savings to cope with rising costs of essentials, exacerbated by the winding down of government pandemic support.

A ministry official remarked, “The lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic are expected to sustain the upward trend in applications for some time. We will closely monitor the situation.”

For December alone, new applications rose by 5.6 percent compared to the previous year, totaling 18,695, marking the 12th consecutive monthly increase, according to the data.

As of December, the number of households receiving assistance increased by 0.4 percent compared to the previous year, reaching 1,653,778, with 906,709 households comprising individuals aged 65 or older, constituting 55.1 percent of the total, remaining unchanged from the previous year.

The number of “other households,” including those with individuals capable of employment but reliant on welfare, totaled 260,438, up by 2.0 percent from the previous year, while single-parent households decreased by 3.5 percent to 65,461, the data revealed.

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