244 Japan’s working poor left behind by Abenomics


Last Christmas Eve, Ririko Saito and her 11-year-old daughter gathered some plastic bottles, pots and a kettle and made several trips to a nearby park to get water. Their utility had just turned off the water supply after months of unpaid bills.

Saito, who works part-time caring for the elderly in a Tokyo hospital and gets welfare to supplement her salary, represents a growing army of poor in a nation that continues to pride itself on being an egalitarian society despite a decades-long rise in poverty.

At 16%, Japan’s relative poverty rate – the share of the population living on less than half of the national median income – is already the sixth-worst among the 34 OECD countries, just ahead of the United States. Child poverty in working, single-parent households like Saito’s is by far the worst at over 50%, making Japan the only country where having a job does not reduce the poverty rate for that group.

I – Word Understanding
supplement – something (money) to add
egalitarian society – a society aiming for equality

II – Have Your Say
1. Japan’s poverty has greatly increased. Possible reasons are:
increase in non-regular employees
2. Who are affected by poverty?
single-elderly households
single-mother households young people
young people
3. Effects of poverty:
poor education
increased crime rate

244 Japan’s working poor left behind by Abenomics