Causes of child poverty in Japan

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Causes of child poverty in Japan

Post by Camellia on Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:36 pm

 Japan is the one of the world’s major economy countries. However, the gap between its rich and poor is very wide, and in recent years, child poverty has become a serious problem. The rate of child poverty was 13.7% in 2008, which means that approximately one child in seven is poor. Some of these children cannot afford to go college or university. It was found that 26.9% of parents find it is difficult for them to send a child college or university (Aya ABE, Kodomo no Hinkon, Iwanami, 2008).
In particular, child poverty is prevalent among single-parent families. According to the OECD Family Database the poverty rate of single parents in Japan is 58.7%, which is the highest among OECD countries.
 Most single-parent family households are female-headed, and 84.5% of these single mothers work outside home. The average annual income of single-mother households was 2,130,000 yen (about $ 25,700) in 2006, which is 40% less than that of the average income of ‘ordinary’ household. One reason to describe this difference is gender gap in wages. The wage of full-time female workers and part-time female workers in 2008 was 69% and 48.5%, respectively, of those of full-time male workers. Many single mothers are part-time workers.
The second factor that contributes to poverty is the Japanese social security system. According to the report of the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research on social security expenditures by functional category, “Old age” heads the list with 50.1% of the total expenditures, followed by “Sickness and health” at 31.1%. Other functional categories are “Survivors” (7.2%), “Family benefits” (3.4%), “Invalidity benefits” (3.0%), and so on. It should be pointed out that the percentage of expenditures for “Family benefits” is very low in Japan compared to other OECD countries. Child care arrangement and benefits for single mothers are also not sufficient (See Michihiko Tokoro, Social Policy and Lone Parenthood in Japan: A Workfare Tradition? The Japanese Journal of Social Security Policy, Vol.2, No.2 (2003)).
 The third factor that contributes to the poverty of single mothers is the most difficult one. Most single mothers are divorcees. It is important to note that only 19% of divorced, single mothers receive child support from their children’s fathers. Japanese family law allows divorce by mutual consent in which a married couple with a child can submit the divorce form to the public office with mere the name of the sole custodian, no judicial intervention are necessary. Over 90% of divorcing couples choose this type of divorce procedure, which prevents any intervention from the state. In case of divorce, it is not necessary for a couple to arrange distribution of marital property, contact and child support. In fact, only 39% of all divorcing couples agree on child support arrangements, and half of the mothers do not actually receive the child support in spite of the agreement. Although the child support can be enforced by a law suit, bringing a father to court for child support is not always the best option because the legal costs of doing so are often higher than the child support to be received (Ibid, at 47). It should be noted that there is no public system to secure child support in Japan. In contrast, some nations have an official system or Child Support Agency to collect support payments from absent parent. Many family law academics claim that divorce procedures and child support system should be revised.
 Meanwhile, a new child allowance scheme was implemented from June 2010. Under the new child allowance law, 13,000 yen (about $157) per child shall be paid monthly to parents until the child leaves junior high school (at the age of 15). The allowance under the old scheme was 5,000 yen for each of the first and the second child(ren) and 10,000 yen for each of the third and beyond children for parents whose income was below a certain level.
Although the amount of child allowance has increased, many people do not think this law is a comprehensive solution for child poverty.

Camellia (


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Marriage and child poverty

Post by wardle on Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:58 pm

Thanks to Camilia for this very interesting and enlightening report. Two of the three causes of child poverty in Japan identified in it relate to marriage - either non-formation of marriage (child-bearing out of wedlock) or break-up of marriage (divorce and need for child support). Clearly some modification of the existing legal system (re: private child support awards and enforcement) and the existing welfare system (re: public child support) may help ease the situation. However, the overarching causal concern seems to be the waning of marriage and marital commitment. That is a global problem and has detrimental impact on children around the world.
2 March 2011
Lynn Wardle


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