The Japanese government has decided to create a database to store various information about children, such as family economic conditions and academic abilities, in an attempt to prevent child poverty and abuse, a source familiar with the plan said Tuesday.
By integrating such data that are often collected separately by the welfare and education sections of municipal governments, officials are hoping to quickly identify children in need of assistance and provide support.
The government is seeking to introduce the database across the country as early as fiscal 2023 as part of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's policy to promote the digital transformation of society, according to the source.
A meeting of vice ministers will be held, possibly by the end of this month, on creating the database, with the government also planning to craft guidelines on how personal information should be handled.
Japan has a relatively high child poverty rate among major economies, with 14.0 percent of those aged 17 and younger living in households with incomes lower than half of the national median disposable income as of 2018, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The child poverty rate in that year was 12.4 percent in Britain, 11.8 percent in Canada and 11.7 percent in France. In the United States, it stood at 21.2 percent as of 2017.
The coronavirus pandemic has made the situation worse for children, welfare experts say, as economic hardship has led to smaller meals and more serious abuses.
The idea of the database has also been raised to overcome the hesitancy of children and parents in seeking assistance from local authorities when they face difficulties.
With the launch of the new system, the government plans to store data such as welfare benefit records and school expense subsidies, as well as the results of academic and physical tests at schools, according to the source.
The government believes that the database will pave the way for quicker assistance for struggling children and their guardians.
Koji Ogawa, who heads a group called Asunoba that helps families in poverty, said he is closely watching the effort by the government.
"Support that does not need to be applied for is needed" as many feel ashamed to ask for public assistance, he said.