Saturday, April 24, 2010

Discovering 'poverty' in Japan

Apparently Japan has discovered 15.7 percent of its people are living in poverty and this is a blow to a society that has always considered itself mostly middle-class.

They made this discovery by adoption of international definitions. An example is used of a single mother raising a teenage daughter and working two jobs. She can't afford to send her daughter to vocational school, a special school that teaches animation acting. But most of the people living in poverty have enough to eat, cars and cellphones.

Contrast this to Brasilia, another story of poverty where people live in make-shift tents on rubbish dumps.

This is no doubt how Mrs Sato, the Japanese example, thinks of poverty.“I don’t want to use the word poverty, but I’m definitely poor,” said Ms. Sato, who works mornings making boxed lunches and afternoons delivering newspapers. “Poverty is still a very unfamiliar word in Japan.”

And may it stay unfamiliar. Japan is a country (as much as I know about it) that has strong families and low crime. In part that can be attributed to very limited state welfare.

When the US discovered 'poverty' and began the 'war' against it in the 1960s, all that happened was poverty became more entrenched and widespread.

If this article is anything to go by, and notice how one female academic is already talking about people not being able to participate fully in society (which is exactly what NZ officials said in 1973 before they created the DPB), then Japan may be about to start going down the same misguided pathway to not less poverty, but less prosperity.

If you doubt my warning consider that currently Japan has one in 7 children living in (let's label it accurately) relative poverty. But NZ has one in 5 living in relative poverty and most are in benefit-dependent households. Why would Japan want to copy western models of welfare?


Anonymous said...

> Japan is a country (as much as I know about it) that has strong families and low crime.

I'm not sure what your definition is for "strong families," but in general I would disagree. With respect to the low crime rate, I suspect that under-reporting is a much greater problem that in NZ.

Anonymous said...

having lived in Japan I was uncomfortable with the levels of poverty experienced by a vagrant population I would not have expected to witness in a country which outwardly displays alot of wealth. Nightly crowds of homeless men and women lining the doorsteps of the shopping alley in the city of 7 million people I made home for several months. Poverty and homelessness I have never seen the likes of in New Zealand. I used to work in retail and socialise in the heart of Auckland city prior to my stint in Japan and I can't say the two situations were even remotely comparable. If a welfare state is what makes the difference then I prefer my odds in New Zealand.