It is desired that children from families that are struggling financially can also grow up without having to worry about the basic needs of food, clothing and housing. Local governments and communities are urged to work together to create an environment conducive to this.
The government has revised its policy outline on fighting child poverty for the first time in five years. The outline stresses the need for society as a whole to tackle the issue rather than leaving the responsibility up to the families alone.
According to government statistics, the relative poverty rate among children in Japan was 13.9% in 2015. This is the share of children in households with annual disposable incomes of less than ¥1.22 million, which is half the national median. The rate improved from the 2012 survey due to economic recovery, but it remains high.
Not a few children have difficulty buying school supplies and cannot afford to eat balanced meals. As their environment does not allow them to study calmly, they could be at a disadvantage when pursuing higher education or seeking employment.
The cycle of poverty that is passed from parents to children must be ended. Creating a society in which all children can have hope will likely help maintain the vitality of the nation.
The new outline is characterized by seamless support for children from pregnancy and childbirth through to independence.
By grasping the whole picture of parents who are forced to lead hard lives with young children, the outline is intended to support their lives in general. It includes measures such as subsidizing school lunch fees for elementary and junior high school students and improving consultation systems to prevent high school dropouts. Steady implementation is urged for these measures.
In municipalities, there is more than one division in charge of matters related to children, such as boards of education and welfare sections. It is said that support tends to be cut off at each stage of children’s growth. Eliminating such vertically divided systems is crucial.
It is essential that the situation faced by children be assessed accurately and then detailed support measures be taken.
In particular, consideration is needed for single-parent households, which are mainly single-mother families. According to a national survey, about 35% of such respondents had the experience of being unable to buy food in the past year.
Measures should be improved to support single parents such as in finding jobs and acquiring skills to enable them to earn a stable income.
In their tax reform outline, the ruling parties have decided to apply a “deduction for widows” that reduces income tax to single parents who are unmarried as well. Currently, only those who have been married are eligible.
Unmarried mothers make up about 10% of single-mother families. It can be said that this is a realistic response to the changing times.
About 60% of private organizations that engage in activities to support children, such as an initiative to operate kodomo shokudo cafeterias that provide free or cheap meals to local children, face financial difficulties. If aid providers are in a state of insecurity, support will be unreliable. To stabilize the financial base of these private organizations, the government should consider improving support measures for them.