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Japanese welfare at record high

THE number of Japanese households on welfare hit a record high in January amid mounting job losses and an ever-deepening recession, a major national daily reported yesterday.

Almost 1.17 million households received welfare benefits in the month, with new applications for government assistance jumping 30 percent from last December, according to the Asahi newspaper.

Strangled by the collapse in global export demand, Japan is now mired in what officials are calling the worst recession since World War II. Its economy ¨? the world's second largest ¨? shrank at an annual pace of 12.7 percent in the October-December quarter, more than triple the slide in the United States in the same period.

Yesterday's data showed that welfare applications climbed particularly sharply in regions where car and electronics factories are concentrated. In central Japan's Aichi prefecture, home to Toyota Motor Co and its many suppliers, applications surged 72 percent in January from the previous month, the Asahi said.

Japanese manufacturers have been quick to adjust to the deteriorating conditions. Companies in recent years have hired more casual workers and fewer permanent employees, making it considerably easier to slim down when needed.

Major exporters including Toyota and Sony Co ¨? which are both forecasting annual losses ¨? have reduced shifts and announced thousands of job cuts.

A recent government report estimated that nearly 158,000 "non-regular" manufacturing employees would have lost their jobs between last October and March this year.


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