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Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010

Foreigners' kids abroad could get ¥1 billion in child allowances: LDP

Staff writer

The government paid child allowances for April and May to foreign residents for 7,746 children living outside Japan, an amount coming to about ¥1 billion in public money for the fiscal year, the Liberal Democratic Party said Wednesday.

The law allows such payments — ¥13,000 per child aged 15 or younger — to foreign residents who have children outside Japan, as long as the parent-child relationship is recognized. However, in reality, it may not always be easy to confirm the relation, which critics point out could open the door to false claims.

The LDP based its estimate on a survey it conducted at the local-government level in May.

Of the foreign children, 7,246 were already receiving the "jido teate" child allowance under the old system, which was replaced by the new child allowance this fiscal year, LDP member Katsunobu Kato told the Lower House Labor, Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday. Some municipalities didn't answer, so the actual figure may be higher, he said.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry sent questionnaires to prefectures July 27 so the central government can get a handle on how much is being paid out. It will announce the results before the end of September, Kazuma Takagou, an official from the department in charge of child allowances, said Wednesday.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which initiated the child allowance policy this fiscal year, pledged in its campaign for the Upper House election last month that it will move in fiscal 2011 to stop the payments to Japanese and foreign parents alike whose children reside outside Japan, in an apparent move to avoid potential fraud.

There has also been criticism that the system is unfair because Japanese children whose parents live outside Japan are not eligible to receive the allowance, while children of foreign nationals living abroad can receive the money as long as their parents live in Japan.

The policy of providing the allowance for kids outside Japan was harshly criticized when a South Korean national in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, tried in April to apply for the money for 554 children he said he adopted in Thailand. The city nixed the request.

Applicants claiming children living outside Japan have to submit documents such as birth certificates and proof of school enrollment. They may also have to submit bank transfer certificates to prove they sent the money to their children, or photocopies of passport stamps to indicate they have made personal contact with their children.

The child allowance for April and May was paid in June. The June-September allowance will come in October and the October-January segment will be paid in February. For next February and March, the allowance will be paid in June, which means for budgetary purposes the allowance will be paid for 10 months in fiscal 2010.

Those favoring the child allowance point out it helps low-income households more than other types of tax relief. Critics meanwhile say there are smarter ways of spending public money to boost the economy.

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The Japan Times

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