Gender and Financial Inclusion

Poverty and Social Exclusion of Women in Japan - Aya K. Abe

Autor: Aya K. Abe

March 2012 - Japanese Journal of Social Security Policy

Extract of the Introduction

It is common among both developed and developing countries that women are more affected than men by the social disadvantages of poverty (Goldberg 2010). Although one of the earlier studies has pointed out that Japan has not experienced the “feminization of poverty,” 1) like other developed countries (Axinn 1990), this argument was made based mostly on the ratio of single-mother households among poor households. A subsequent study, however, which includes an analysis of the
elderly, has pointed out that the feminization of poverty in Japan is significant, thus contesting the results of previous studies (Kimoto and Hagiwara 2010). Since then, more and more statistical data demonstrating the poverty risk of women is emerging, and the remarkably high poverty rate of female-headed households is being highlighted. For example, the relative poverty rate of single person households of elderly women is over 50% and for single-mother households, almost 60% (Abe 2010).

The issue of poverty, however, is hardly ever discussed from the context of gender (Osawa 2010). Moreover, there is a tendency that poverty is a “men’s issue.” For example, even though the poverty among female elderly single-person households is remarkably high, there is no debate on how to raise their well-being. Also, even though there is a spreading awareness that the non-regular employment, represented by those doing temporary or part-time jobs, is leading to the phenomenon of the working poor, and despite it being clear that the overwhelming majority of non-regular workers are women, there is weak recognition that the working-poor is women’s issue. Almost all people staying in “Hakenmura” (temporary workers village) in Hibiya Park at the end of 2008 after the “Lehman Shock” were men, giving an impression that it is only men who had lost housing and employment. But this turn-out did not indicate that women were not being affected as well. It simply meant that for women, sleeping rough in a park was unacceptable and unavailable option in terms of their physical safety. Women tend to use all possible means to avoid sleeping rough, even sometimes engaging in sex industry. Poverty among working women has been a problem long before Hakenmura, yet “the working poor” was recognized only when it began to affect men.