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More than 40% of single older women live in poverty in Japan

A recent survey has shown that 44.1 percent of single Japanese women aged 65 and older live in poverty, a much higher rate than that of older single men.

The level of poverty is as serious as that of single-parent households of working age, which amounts to 44.5 percent, The Asahi Shimbun newspaper has reported.

The survey has been published by Aya Abe, a professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University who researches poverty issues in which she has collected the data based on the Ministry of Social Welfare’s comprehensive survey on living conditions in 2021.

“Social norms that assume that women receive support from men have led to a system that does not consider women who live alone, and persist even today,” Abe said, adding that “the focus on ‘poverty’ of women’ often focuses on young women and single mothers. Policies also revolve around child support and do not essentially support women.”

Older people often face reduced or no income due to retirement, making both men and women vulnerable to poverty.

Single-person households are also more likely to fall into poverty than households made up of married couples, where at least one member of the couple is a wage earner or pension recipient, however, there is a disparity between the genders: The poverty rate among elderly single men is 30 percent, 14.1 points lower than that of elderly single women.

The poverty rate varies among older women depending on their marital status. The rate is 13.5 percent for married women, jumps to 43.1 percent for single women and 43.6 percent for divorced women. The rate for widows is 32 percent.

This suggests a higher risk of poverty for women who are not married, but widows may receive some support from family bereavement pensions.

The relative poverty rate, adopted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), indicates a state in which people cannot afford the standard of living enjoyed by the majority of people in society, but the indicator It does not take into account assets or benefits in kind.

According to the 2021 survey of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Japan’s poverty rate is 15.4 percent, and the child poverty rate is 11.5 percent.

Other data released by the Ministry of the Interior, based on the 2019 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, showed that the relative poverty rate is 35.1 percent for single women aged 65 and over and 20.3 percent for cent for men in the same group.

According to the 2020 national census, there are approximately 6.72 million elderly single-person households, of which two-thirds are women, or about 4.41 million.

The National Institute for Population and Social Security Research estimates that the number of single older women will reach approximately 5.4 million in 2040, suggesting the potential for worsening poverty in this demographic group.

A 77-year-old unemployed woman in Tokyo lives alone in a 50-year-old apartment whose rent costs 30,000 yen (186 euros) a month.

She had no interest in getting married or having children and she decided to remain single. She worked as a temporary employee for the local government in her twenties, but unable to save money due to her low wages, she moved to Tokyo at the age of 30.

After working part-time, she became a full-time employee at a long-established bakery, where she was in charge of customer service and sales and in charge of store management. Her monthly salary ranged from 150,000 to 180,000 yen.

Although she earned less than men who worked in sales or in a factory, she was not dissatisfied and she worked until her retirement full-time and then another three years part-time.

When he finished he had around six million yen (about 37,000 euros) in savings and he vaguely believed that he could live off his pension and savings, but his pension was only up to 90,000 yen (about 600 euros) a month and since his rent was of 60,000 yen (about 370 euros), he had to dip into his savings to make ends meet.

After turning 70, her savings were almost depleted, so she had to move into her current apartment about three years ago, where she does not use the air conditioning to save on utilities. In summer, she puts ice packs under her armpits and in winter, she puts heating pads on the back.

Every day she visits supermarkets and farmers markets, looking for even the slightest discounts on vegetables and prepared foods, but price increases have taken their toll and late last year she had to wait in line for food aid for the first time.

“I never thought it would end like this. Is it my fault?” she asks herself in statements collected by the aforementioned newspaper.

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