Editorial: COVID pushing children below poverty line

December 17 , 2020

The facts are clear: More and more families with children are being forced into poverty by the pandemic and extending aid to them is urgent.

A recent UNESCO study on the pandemic’s economic impact on children conducted in 41 high-income countries found that the number of children living in poverty over the next five years, including Japan, should increase. As of 2018, one in seven dependents under the age of 18 in Japan lived below the poverty line, placing third after the United States and Italy among all industrialized nations.

The coronavirus is exacerbating the problem, especially for single-parent families, with many working in low-wage, non-permanent jobs. In another survey by the quasi-public Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training carried on in November 2020, some 60% of single parents surveyed replied that they were experiencing financial distress; nearly 40% admitted they lacked the funds to purchase groceries on more than one occasion in the past 30 days.

The government is stepping up, signing off on one-time payout of ¥50,000 for single-parent families to be distributed before the year’s end and provide tuition assistance to needy high-schoolers—both programs adopted at the strong lobbying of Komeito.

UNESCO is calling on governments to provide a wide range of assistance to struggling families, including support for income, childcare, utilities and rent. While the Japanese government has already implemented a number of support programs for young children, it must ascertain the totality of the problem and address it fully by adopting meaningful initiatives. Time is of the essence.