Friday 20 February 2012, Saitama, Japan: three members of the same family are found dead in their apartment building in Saitama, north of Tokyo. The victims were found decomposed lying on futons together with the carcass of their pet cat. The fridge was found empty and one-yen coin seemed to be the only money they possessed. The victims were an elderly couple in there 60s and their son, thought to be in his 30s. The cause of death of the family is unknown, however officials believe they either died of starvation of committed suicide. According to the health ministry 700 people have died of starvation since 2000.
Japan enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world. How can a family die unnoticed of poverty in a country with the third largest economy of the world? Because Japan is a developed country we assume the levels of poverty will be low. Poverty rates have been rising in Japan, especially among the elderly, disabled and single-mothers.
In this paper we will first look at some statistics about poverty in Japan and define what poverty is. Secondly we will look at the causes of poverty in Japan and define three groups of poor in Japan. Provided with that information we will look at some sociological perspectives explaining poverty for each group with a different perspective.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or in short OECD, is an international organization of 34 countries to stimulate economic progress and world trade. Among these 34 countries is also Japan. The OECD is known as a statistical agency and publishes statistics on a wide number of subjects, also on poverty. Poverty rates of all countries are measured and this generates an OECD average. Income inequality and relative poverty among the working-age population in Japan have risen to levels above OECD average.
The graph on the left shows the percentage of the working-age population of Japan living in relative poverty. The red line represents Japan and the blue line the OECD average. The last time the Japanese poverty level was measured was in 2009. The outcome was 16%. Among the members of OECD only the United States, Mexico and Chile have a higher relative poverty percentage.
The graph above shows the percentage of people living in relative poverty per age group. Again the blue line represents the OECD average and the red line represents Japan. As the graph shows, poverty is the highest among the elderly living in Japan.
Relative income poverty is defined as having an income of 50% or lower than the national median income. The average household net-adjusted disposable income in Japan is 24,147 USD a year. This means that people are considered as poor in Japan when a household has to live with approximately a thousands dollars a month. This also has a big influence on the amount of children growing up in poverty. In 1995 12% of all children in the age group 0-17 years lived in poverty....