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Poverty Problem of Single Mother Families

Sae Kanazawa

February 27, 2019


In Japan, poverty level of single-mother family is one of the serious social problems. There are about 52 billion households in Japan. Among them, about 1.24 million are single-mother households. “Poor family” here means a household with less than half of the average-annual family income.


The Causes of Poverty


Why does single mother family become poor? Why can not they earn enough income to maintain their living? The reason lies in the difference of economic situations between men and women in Japan. For example, women have lower average annual income than men because most of them must leave the work for giving a birth and rearing a child. It is difficult for women to find a new job as a regular employee. So many single mothers choose non-regular employment or professions that they can work shorter-time, which are usually paid less.

   There are many cases when divorced women can not receive any financial support, because their ex-husbands often refuse to pay child support or bereavement. It is also very difficult to get into a welfare program and receive subsidies from Japanese government because there are many strict rules to be qualified as a recipient. For example, people who receive government subsidies can not  own cars or save money into the saving accounts. So single mothers are always busy trying to earn money and balance their lives while taking care of their children. These reasons tend to cause children to have poor academic achievements, get-bulled, or fall into ill behavior.


Not Only A Japanese Problem


This problem occurs not only in Japan. Single-mother families have been increasing in their number around the world and half of the increase happened in OECD countries. (CO_2_2_Child_Poverty)

   In Japan, there is a bigger gender disparity of income compared with the United States. There are several reasons for this. First, Japanese women tend to choose professions which are perceived as feminine and easy to get qualification for, especially service industry like dental hygienist, childcare worker, or waitress. On the other hand, men choose specialist jobs such as doctor, engineer, lawyer, and pilot. In general, men work at the same job for a longer time than women, so they can get promoted to a higher professional grade and get a higher salary.

   I interviewed my acquaintance who lives in Boston. He said “In the United States, women also go into the professions that provide lots of time off, or flexible schedules. These professions include education (teachers), nursing, and retail (working in stores). The one big problem with these professions is that they also tend to be paid, less than traditional careers in engineering, law, business, medicine or other typical office job.” I think his comment draws a similarity between Japan and the US.

   In Japan, women and men can take time off from working to raise children, according to the Childcare Leave Law. But there are big differences in the child care term between women and men (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: Average Time of Child Care Leave by Gender


Delayed Law Maintenance in Japan


Getting married and giving birth should be determined by individuals, not by the government and that is the trends of the world. But the Japanese legal law stipulates the marriage, which forms the base for all public welfare qualifications. Rights. This is obsolete compared with the rest of the civilized world.

   For example, there is PACS in Denmark, which allows citizens to live the community life and provides them the same rights as a married couple even if they are not leagally married. And people who live together can get preferential treatment with the tax or social security, same way as married couples do.

   In Japan, there is not compulsory child support system. On the other hand, in the US, the duty to pay child support is determined by each state and it also punishable by law, when anyone violate it.


More Supports for Children Needed 


In conclusion, there are many causes of poverty in single-mother families. Japanese welfare qualification is very obsolete compared with other countries. In fact, some countries have lower poverty rates of the single-mother families because of the generous laws to provide same preferential exemption to the couples of same-sex partnerships or domestic partnerships.

   Moreover, Japanese government must provide more supports to children. For example, Denmark has a very substantial social security system. All education cost is free even for the graduate schools and medical treatments are also free. There are no children on the waiting list to daycare centers. It is a remarkable difference from Japan.

   Why cannot Japan do the same thing? In, Denmark, they have high tax and high welfare policy and the reallocation of national income works well. People with lower income can get enough public benefits to make a living.

   In Japan, there seems a vicious cycle of poverty. When poor children cannot go to college, they cannot receive good education, making them difficult to get a good job to earn enough money to live. Such vicious cycle should be terminated and Japanese government should consider another country examples and think more serious to total support to the next generation.

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