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‘Culture of shame’

Stigma against single mothers leads to poverty in Japan

By WITW Staff on May 30, 2017

After sputtering for many years, Japan’s economy has started to expand. But many single mothers and children are still struggling below the poverty line.

According to a feature in The Washington Post, stigma plays a major part in the economic hardships faced by Japanese families. Single parents are looked down upon — so much so that some mothers and fathers hide the reality of their relationships from friends and families. Mothers in Japan also face intense pressure to leave the workplace and stay home with their children, making it exceptionally difficult for single mothers to eke out a living.

“We have this culture of shame,” Yukiko Tokumaru, who runs Child Poverty Action Osaka, told the Post. “Women’s position is still so much lower than men’s in this country, and that affects how we are treated. Women tend to have irregular jobs, so they need several jobs to make ends meet.”

Such prejudices have an adverse impact on the country’s children. Sixteen percent of Japanese children live below the poverty line, according to Health Ministry data, but that number balloons to 55 percent among single-parent families.

Measures are being taken to address this problem. In Osaka, for instance, a non-governmental welfare service offers single mothers emergency food packages and advice. The Nishinari center provides meals to the children of struggling families. And at the national level, prime minister Shinzo Abe has launched a comprehensive — if imperfect — plan to encourage more women and mothers to participate in the workforce.

Read more at The Washington Post.


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