The number of applications for welfare benefits in Japan in fiscal 2020 grew from the previous year. It was the first increase since fiscal 2009, following the global financial crisis.
The welfare ministry says preliminary figures show that 228,081 applications were submitted in the fiscal year that ended in March. That was up 5,039, or 2.3 percent, from the previous year.
The ministry also says the total number of applications in March was 22,839, up 1,809, or 8.6 percent, from a year earlier.
This is the seventh straight month that the number of applications for welfare benefits has increased from the previous year.
Ministry officials said a growing number of people are under financial strain as they may have lost their jobs and are having difficulty finding another amid the coronavirus pandemic.
They expressed concern that the situation may worsen following the recent extension of the third state of emergency for nine prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka.
The ministry's website carries a message calling on people not to be hesitant in consulting with administrative offices about welfare benefits, adding that anyone can become in need of such relief.