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厚生[こうせい]
福祉[ふくし]
福利[ふくり]
生活保護[せいかつほご]

Translating "welfare" into Japanese seems a bit complicated. Could someone maybe provide for context the most typical phrases/chunks that use these words?

I'm aware that 厚生 is used in the name of the Ministry for Health, Labour and Welfare (厚生労働省), but am a bit confused as to why it isn't 福祉, for example.

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厚生, 福祉 and 福利

First of all, 福利 and 厚生 are almost outdated words except in legal terms or a combination of 福利厚生 ("fringe benefits" according to WP). 福祉 is the most common word covers "welfare" in every situation today.

福利 particularly refers to benefits or services one can gain from welfare system. And 厚生 literally means "fulfilled life" or "life enrichment" (or "high QoL" if you prefer), which is used as a fancy word in place of "welfare", much as like we call the judicial administration "Department of Justice".

生活保護

It's a proper name given to Japanese social welfare program officially translated as "Public Assistance". You cannot consider this as a term indicates any kind of generic welfare systems.

EDIT
A general term translates "public assistance" or "social assistance" seems to be 公的扶助.

  • Thank you, this is a great answer and very helpful. I was confused because the dictionary suggested that to say someone is "on welfare," it would be 「生活保護を受けている」. So I suppose that if it was outside Japan, I couldn't say this, because 生活保護 is particular to Japan… – sebu May 24 '15 at 7:03

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