Japan's lower house passes bill on child welfare, free education

16:35, March 16, 2010      

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The lower house of parliament in Japan passed a bill on Tuesday that will make tuition free for public high school students and will provide allowances to families raising children.

The governing coalition, led by the Democratic Party of Japan ( DPJ), expects the bills to be cleared in the upper house, where it also holds a majority, before the end of March.

The bills are a part of the DPJ campaign promise from an election last summer that it won in a landslide to reduce spending on public-works projects and to put the money back into the pockets of households across the nation.

The governing coalition, New Komeito and the Japan Communist Party (JCP) all voted in favor of the bills. The largest opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) voted against the bills.

Under the bill, households with children of junior high school age (16) or younger will be entitled to 13,000 yen (144 U.S. dollars) per month to help with child-rearing costs. Private and state high schools will also be paid between 120,000 yen (1,330 dollars) and 240,000 yen (2,660 dollars) a year to contribute toward the tuition costs of young people. Youths going to state- run high schools will not have to pay tuition fees under the bill.

The bill was also amended after an agreement between New Komeito and the government to also entitle children living in welfare institutions to the benefits.

The DPJ made the funds for child rearing a cornerstone of its manifesto in campaigning for last year's election, but has found since coming to power that in order to keep this promise and others to the electorate it has had to allocate 92.3 trillion yen (1 trillion dollars) for the fiscal 2010 budget, a record amount. In order to fund the budget, the government has increase the nation's debt burden.

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