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Okinawa tops Japan in maternity money borrowing

Date Posted: 2003-11-29

Okinawan mothers are the nationís top borrowers of money against their maternity allowance. Thatís the word from the Okinawa Prefecture Social Insurance Association, which says a typical childbirth in Japan costs about Y240,000, payable when the mother leaves the hospital. The National Social Welfare and Health Insurance pays each mother Y300,000, but the money comes only about a month after the child is born.

Since July 2001 it has been possible for mothers to borrow the initial cost from a prefectural fund at no interest, and pay the money back when the health insurance money arrives. Thus the mother can have the cash before the baby is born and use it to prepare for the arrival of the baby, and even pay the hospital bill in advance.

The Social Insurance Association statistics show that 64.2 percent of new mothers use the system, whereas only 35 percent of mothers nationwide avail themselves to the money before childbirth.

According to a Social Insurance Association spokesman, there are two main reasons. ďThe average income of a family in Okinawa is still low compared to mainland, and at the same time the number of childbirths per woman is double,Ē the spokesman said. He also pointed out that as the national health insurance pays Y300,000 that leaves a little bit extra for the mother to spend on necessities.

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