Spotlight: Number of child abuse cases in Japan spikes in 2016, welfare workers overstretched

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-17 18:37:36|Editor: Zhou Xin
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TOKYO, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) -- The number of cases of child abuse in Japan that involved child consultation centers increased to a record level in 2016, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Thursday.

The health ministry's survey showed that cases of child abuse that were handled by juvenile consultation centers around the nation had increased by five times over the past 15 years.

Welfare workers dealing with abused children and their parents in the same period had doubled, the ministry also said.

According to the latest figures, in fiscal 2016, cases of psychological abuse, including those in which children were exposed to verbal abuse or ignored, increased by 14,487 to 63,187, or just over 50 percent of all cases.

Cases of physical abuse, meanwhile, totaled 31,927 cases, accounting for 26 percent of the total cases, while 25,842 children or 21.1 percent of the total suffered from neglect.

Sexual abuse cases stood at 1,622, or 1.3 percent, the ministry's data showed.

Municipal governments have been requested by the health ministry for the first time to report suspected child abuse cases that were initially deemed unrelated to abuse and resulted in the death of a child.

After reviewing 12 suspected cases, it was determined that eight deaths were caused by child abuse, with the number of children who died in fiscal 2015 because of abuse increasing by eight to 52 from the previous year.

The number excluded children who were killed in murder-suicides.

Of the 52 fatally abused children, 30 of the victims were less than one year old, the health ministry's expert committee deduced, stating that "seamless" support programs need to be instituted to deal with issues such as unexpected pregnancy and other issues affecting mothers.

The rising number of child abuse cases in Japan is due to more children being abused psychologically, such as those who repeatedly have to witness acts of domestic abuse at home with their families, the ministry's data suggested.

It also intimated that the continued increase in child abuse here was at least in part attributable to more people reporting cases of abuse and more procedural information being available nowadays as society has become more aware of the issue.

Child welfare officers responding to a government survey said they were overburdened by their caseloads involving Japan's abused children.

Ninety four percent of those polled said that their workload was either "very heavy" or "heavy" according to the statistics bureau.

Experts said despite the ministry's plans to increase the number of child welfare officers by 550 from 3,000 over the next five years, the move would still mean the number of officers and the rising number of child abuse cases would continue to be incongruous.

The revised welfare law and the government's efforts to bolster the legal power of child consultation centers, have both fallen short, and have actually added to the workload of an already depleted field of welfare workers here, experts close to the matter have said.