Japan’s Single Mothers Face Poverty Trap

Woojin Kwak, Staff writer

Many countries in our world today have high poverty rates, but recently, a rapid increase in poverty has occurred in Japan with single women. With the shrinking workforce due to low birth rates and stagnating economy, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has planned to help single women out of this trap by boosting the role of women in the labor market.

Currently, sixty percent of working women in Japan have part-time jobs or temporary jobs, and are paid approximately forty percent less than full time workers. Because of these harsh economic conditions, it becomes difficult for single women to make ends meet every month. Yukako Yamada, a Japanese single mom, earns a monthly pay of about $1,200, about half the average Japanese person’s salary. She is struggling to support her young son with her low wage office job, and is living life on the edge of poverty. Noriko, a 37 year old single mother of a 10-year old daughter says,

“It is a struggle every month, especially since my daughter is growing so rapidly, I want to buy her new shoes and underwear, but I can’t always afford it.”

[Although it is natural for first world countries to have a upper and lower class, the lifestyle of single Japanese women like Nojiko is too arduous and severe for a first world country. Nojiko is currently unemployed and holds a variety of part-time jobs in clerical work and elderly care. Her identity as a single mother has hurt her in the application process for many jobs which is why she is working part-time.]

The main cause for these single Japanese women to fall into poverty is because of divorce. Although it is becoming more socially acceptable, post-divorce conditions in Japan affect women tremendously. When the working man, who usually is the head of the household, leaves because of divorce, the women have to take over instantly. Adjusting immediately can be very difficult for these women, especially when they didn’t have a job before. This sudden chain reaction is what leads them into the deep trap of poverty. To assist these women out of poverty, the Japanese government has created multiple plans. First, they will extend child support to more single women as many single women in poverty do not have this benefit. Secondly, Prime Minister Abe is also proposing to increase the amount of welfare assistance and to reduce education costs. Finally, experts have suggested changes to Japan’s employment system because of discrimination against single women, and changes to the Japanese culture of long working hours, to support working mothers. If this action plan is not implemented, women like Noriko and Yamada will continue to struggle. This poverty trap for women could lead to sudden increases in the lower class which will create an imbalance in the economy. In order to prevent future economic crises, the Japanese Government and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must take action immediately.