Sunday, May 2, 2010


Japan and poverty did not seem to be compatible till recently when the new left leaning government decided to release uncomfortable statistics, suppressed for long by a country which takes immense pride in its image as an economic giant. The cold reality that more than 15% of its population or one in six amongst the Japanese cannot expect to afford the good things in life or a safe future for them selves and their families, is bitter truth difficult to stomach for a proud nation, once considered as an economic giant in the world. It may be a consolation that in the poverty ranking Japan is still better than the US where more than 17% of the population are considered poor.

"After years of economic stagnation and widening income disparities, this once proudly egalitarian nation is belatedly waking up to the fact that it has a large and growing number of poor people. The Labor Ministry's disclosure in October that almost one in six Japanese, or 20 million people, lived in poverty in 2007 stunned the nation and ignited a debate over possible remedies that has raged ever since".

If this country is unable to reverse the trend, future generation will have to reconcile to a situation where education is not affordable and the country may end up with a vast population that can take up only poorly paid unskilled work without any safety net to fall back. A close look at the profile of poverty ridden population reveals that 80% of them are workers, holding low wage temporary jobs with no security or benefits. Annual income less than $ 22000 is considered "below poverty line"( BPL) and many such workers even after taking up more than one job find it hard to cross the BPL mark, reflecting the desperate situation obtaining in to day's Japan. Though $ 22000 may look like lot of money, even a decent education can cost as much as $ 10000 an year under the prevailing condition, making it beyond the reach of many families.


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