August 26, 2008

Japan to Offer Financial Aid for “Internet Cafe Refugees”

Tokyo, Aug. 26 (Jiji Press)--The Japanese government will offer financial support, including loans for housing, to so-called "Internet cafe refugees," a class of homeless people taking shelter at 24-hour Internet cafes, labor ministry officials said Tuesday.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has requested a total budget of 710 million yen for loans, advisory services and other support for them for fiscal 2009 starting in April, the officials said.

Internet cafe refugees have emerged as a new problem in Japan in recent years. According to a government survey released last year, about 5,400 people nationwide had no fixed address and were staying at Internet cafes for more than three nights per week.

In addition, about 40 pct of them were jobless, and even those who had jobs were temporary workers with unstable incomes, the report said.

The government plans to lend some 400 of those seeking stable jobs money for housing and living expenses until their first payday and finance living costs for some 200 homeless currently in job training. It will continue to provide advisory services, which started in the current fiscal year.

Through the aid programs, 280,000 to 400,000 yen in housing loans will be available in Osaka, Kanagawa and Aichi Prefectures, where there are large numbers of Internet cafe refugees.

Those who live in the three prefectures will also be able to receive loans of up to 200,000 yen to buy work clothes and cover living costs until finding a job, as well as grants to pay deposits on rental accommodation.

In Tokyo, the national government will only offer money for deposits, because the metropolitan government already provides such loans on its own.

Meanwhile, loans to job trainees will be available in Tokyo, Osaka and Aichi. The Employment and Human Resources Development Organization, an independent administrative agency, will offer 150,000 yen a month to people who earn 1.5 million yen or less annually. If they complete three to six months of training, they will be exempted from loan repayments.END

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