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The distribution of child-rearing allowances, one of the Democratic Party of Japan's key campaign promises in last year's election, started Tuesday in seven small municipalities in three prefectures.
Show me the money: Boys show off the government's child-rearing allowance their mother received Tuesday at the town hall in Asahi, Toyama Prefecture.KYODO PHOTO
According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the town of Asahi, Toyama Prefecture, the village of Awashimaura, Niigata Prefecture, and five towns in Hokkaido became the first municipalities to make the monthly ¥13,000 payment per child aged 15 and younger.
Most local governments are expected to use bank transfers for the payments, but eligible parents in Asahi collected the cash in person in the town office.
About half the municipalities nationwide plan to make the payments June 10 and a majority will complete their first payments by June 20, the ministry said.
The payments this month cover the April and May benefits.
Under the law enacted in late March, the government will provide ¥13,000 a month, or ¥156,000 a year, per child in fiscal 2010 through next March 31 regardless of household income.
The payments will continue until children graduate from junior high school.
Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma said the government aims to stem the low birthrate trend through the allowance program, coupled with day care services and the promotion of lifestyles that balance work with family life.
The allowance is "a significant step forward for Japan's child support policies," Nagatsuma said.
But Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto, known for his candor, harshly criticized the scheme.
"I can't understand why the government is providing cash by issuing deficit-covering bonds. This style of state management is absolutely wrong," he told reporters.