Single women at bottom rung of the economy

TOKYO —

“In the working demographic (age 20 to 50), one single female out of three in Japan is poor,” asserts Aya Abe, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently a general manager at the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

Abe’s figures, reports Shaken Taishu (Jan 2), are based on analysis of the so-called relative poverty ratio, as extracted from a basic survey on living standards conducted in 2007.

This is determined through a formula based on the mean take-home pay of individual household members. “Single female” in this context does not include women still living with their parents.

Beyond age 65, the poverty ratio for women increases to 52%; for single mothers with minor children, it’s 57%.

A reporter for a national daily adds that “57% of the nation’s poor are women, and that statistical data show the gap between males and females has been widening since 1995.”

Abe supposes that a key factor is that approximately half of female workers are not employed as regular company staff with full salary, bonus and social insurance, but as part-timers or worker dispatch firms.

“When demonstrators set up the ‘haken-mura’ (village of dispatch workers) in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park at the start of 2008, some people said because no females took part, this served as proof that poverty didn’t affect women,” remarks Midori Ito of the Action Center for Working Women. “That’s insulting. Would women feel safe camping out in a park? These women who had no place else to go were spending all night sitting in family restaurants.

“Actually more women have been affected than men,” adds Ito. “And they’ve been this way for some time already.”

A survey in 2010 determined there are 12,180,000 women employed by worker dispatch firms and working at other non-regular jobs—- which is 54% of the female labor pool. The corresponding figure for males is 5.39 million workers, or 19% of the total.

The aforementioned reporter notes that even after finding employment, many female university graduates are saddled with repaying their student loans, and have little left for discretionary spending.

After paying their rents, student loans and meals, they might have 50,000 yen left to live on, if that.

“Even Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) member companies are inclined to hire career woman through temp help agencies or as part timers. As opposed to an hourly wage of 2,000 yen for males, women get around 850 yen,” points out Ms Ito, who added that such women are generally treated in the category of semi-skilled labor.

Ms. Abe notes that as the ratio of single people to the overall population continues to increase, the number of impoverished females is bound to keep climbing.

Hiromi Ikeda, a psychiatric counselor, notes that women in the 32 to 40 age bracket are members of the so-called “dankai junior,” born during a demographic spike after Japan’s postwar baby boom generation wed and began having children.

“These women grew up in a competitive environment with a large number of classmates, among who few successes at school admissions or job placement were achieved,” she says. “They’ve got a sense of resignation toward life you ordinarily see among younger people.”

Irrespective of their current economic status, says Shukan Taishu, the situation is likely to worsen considerably when these unmarried, childless women reach old age. Already, according to one source, 2.61 million women are receiving monthly pension payments of less than 40,000 yen. “It’s estimated that a 25-year-old single person going on welfare might wind up costing the system more than 100 million yen over the rest of her life,” says the aforementioned reporter. “That’s likely to place a serious burden on the government’s budget.”

  • -3

    tmarie

    Wouldn't a large part of the issue be that married women working are wanting to be paid less than 1.3 million a year which means companies know they can pay these women less which means those needing a living wage don't get paid what they are worth and what they need. Get rid of the 1.3 salary cap for taxes and pensions and ft female workers will have a better chance to get paid fairly. This 1.3 things hurts single working women - and ft working women who want to be paid fairly. The 1.3 wives are seriously causing issues for women who want to be paid feirly andbe given the same opportunities as the men!

    Those living at home with mom and dad also cause problems! They won't fight for equal wages and some of them refuse to take ft offers from companies because they want to take long vacations and have their freedom of being able to do no overtime and the like. Again, this hurts those who need a living salary and who want to be treated fairly.

    Blame Koizumi for the haken issues.

  • 3

    southsakai

    Single women in this country. I feel very sorry for them. The system is setup and structured in such a manner that they really have no chance to get ahead.

    That's why they push them to get married asap before they hit 30 and become a housewife. Discrimination towards women in the Japanese workplace is too much.

    I don't blame the women for rushing and marrying a guy as fast as possible here who holds a secure job. They don't have any security, they are always discriminated against with salaries and job promotions ( male to female ). Hope one day things will change and women in this country get treated in a fair manner with no discrimination.

  • -1

    tmarie

    I agree south but sadly, they don't seem to fight to make things better. Marrying, quitting your job and then working for less than 1.3 doesn't make it better. They contribute to the problem by doing exactly what you described!

  • 0

    DenTok2009

    A friend told me his girlfriend never worked till she met, married, gave birth and divorced him! His girlfriend lived at home till well past thirty! I asked him what she did from high school till before she met him and he just shrugged and told me her parents must have not asked/told her to get a job! She met my friend, married him, had their child then divorced him and is now working. I wonder how her interview was like... single till past thirty, no work history, divorced with a child. She's very fortunate to land a job. (Apparently once she was out of the house, there was no return! I thought after the divorce, she went back home so her parents can take care of her and their grandchild!)

    It's tough in Japan especially if you are out of your twenties. So many employers want to staff their company with people in their 20's and maybe 30's. Japan is obsessed with youth. No back to school to learn a new skill.

  • 5

    JapanGal

    After paying their rents, student loans and meals, they might have 50,000 yen left to live on, if that.

    OMG, no new Gucci bag this year.

  • 1

    paulinusa

    Why would anyone think these findings are a surprise?

  • -2

    tmarie

    They can go back to uni. Thing is, they don't want to. I don't feel any sympathy for the girls who do as your friend's ex did. There are faaaaar too many Princesses in this country who expect the man to make the money. That kind of thinking hurts the hard working women who want to be treated fairly - yes, I know. I've said it a million times but sadly Japan still doesn't seem to get it.

  • -4

    j4p4nFTW

    Is this not true most everywhere? Certainly where I work, young single females contribute the least to the company's profit and leave the soonest. What motivation do companies have to invest in a bunch of floozies who are just working to earn money to take their little jaunts to Paris until they get married? If they want more they have to show they're serious about it.

  • 1

    Laguna

    The "princess" comments miss the mark: for every such spoiled woman, there are probably twenty trying to get by in an economy tough even for men. (And let's not get started on herbivores focused only on gaming, anime or manga.) Single mothers in particular have it difficult, though there is fortunately an extra, if marginal, safety net for them.

    There is no quick fix, but compassion is certainly called for.

  • 1

    edojin

    I have worked with many "single women" over the years here in Japan. Guess it was the type of work I was in, but none of them were "poor." As a matter of fact, they had their heads screwed on right and were hard-working women ... earning the nice salaries they were making. And those that retired seemed to be set up okay financially.

    However, I do have many "single mother" friends who are struggling to make ends meet. Quite a few of them were in low-paying jobs, but that was the best work they could find. I never inquired about their past, but I believe their husbands, lovers of whatever dumped them and let them fend for theirselves.

    Many long stories involved here ... but these are my comments in a nutshell.

  • 1

    m5c32

    This is a social structural problem which is in dire need of a systemic solution -because of that, unless Japan faces an immediate existential threat, I don't see much change happening to address this --which is too bad. It's almost worse than India, for women.

  • 0

    MaboDofuIsSpicy

    Ok, let me try to put it another way.

    The working conditions are against women as stated above.

    Women are looked down at because they will quit when they get married. The fastest way for someone to get married when getting near age 30 and not having any prospect of moving up at work is to get pregnant.

    It happens all the time. My ex-wife did it.

    She then had the easy life. Now she does not.

    Ms. Abe notes that as the ratio of single people to the overall population continues to increase, the number of impoverished females is bound to keep climbing.

    This is one good reason to get married, and why not with a baby. I have seen it work out great 50% of the time, and that is good.

    I feel sorry for women here, but I also feel for salary men when they hit 65 and forced to retire. They will be just as poor as the women.

  • -2

    Lieberman2012

    It is like these women will have to learn a trade or find a man or something. Shocked is what i am

  • 3

    sfjp330

    As a result, the lives of many poor single women people are disrupted through constant moving. Being poor erodes the spirit just as malnutrition erodes the body. It lowers self-esteem, so it becomes even more difficult to get out of poverty. When individuals are blamed for being poor, it takes attention away from the state of the economy and unemployment, the cycle of poverty and abuse for which helping services are currently insufficient. The blame is often internalized, sometimes turning into self-abuse, increasing self-destructive coping mechanisms like smoking, over-consumption of alcohol and substance abuse. All of these issues affect both women and men. Also, most low-income unmarried or divorced women are also responsible for children, and it hurts them deeply not to be able to provide a safe, quiet, stable home, nutritious food and at least a small fraction of what their kids' classmates take for granted. They may think they are bad mothers for conditions that aren't their fault. Low-income women are also sometimes deemed to be "selfish" for wanting to have kids.

  • 2

    tkoind2

    A couple years ago three women I know, all single, all between 32-36 were suddently unemployed. All went straight out to seek new work. All received declines based upon age discrimination siting either their potential to marry, have kids or the fact that they were "too old" for the position.

    The sad fact is that this poverty is inflicted upon women by a system that does not protect human rights for either sex, but particularly for women. Age discrimination along side gender discrimination makes it nearly impossible for even skilled women to obtain rational work. And if women with good jobs lose them in the declining economy, they are unlikey to recover with new equal employment.

    Japan must take action to assure the rights of all workers. Of women, of older workers and of people with special needs. Until the nation does this, it will continue to build an empoverished segment of society that will further burden the state. The obvious answer is to address the problem and incintivise companies to reverse these trends.

    It should be illegal for people to remain temps forever. Jobs lasting more than six months should be full time. And companies trying to rotate temps through jobs or make minor changes to mask the long term nature of jobs should be subject to severe fines and penalties. We have to end this culture of temp work and force back a culture of proper employment.

  • 2

    tkoind2

    edojin, " Guess it was the type of work I was in, but none of them were "poor."

    let me guess. Banker? Or something else international?

    You should spend some time talking to 30-something hard working Japanese women who are not connected to the foreign world. Many are smart, creative, talented and skilled. But companies want some fluffy cute thing in her 20's so they tell these women in their 30's that they are too old for the position.

    The number one issue here is that no one in Japan stands up for what is needed. Often people say this is the "Japanese way" which is utter nonsense. Japan has a long history of revolutionary change to adapt to and overcome problems. This is a product of the boom era when people in Japan became silent and passive victims. It is not Japanese tradition or the Japanese way to fail to do what is required for change. It is modern disaffection and social disempowerment.

  • 0

    oginome

    Is this not true most everywhere? Certainly where I work, young single females contribute the least to the company's profit and leave the soonest. What motivation do companies have to invest in a bunch of floozies who are just working to earn money to take their little jaunts to Paris until they get married? If they want more they have to show they're serious about it.

    Women are forever being passed over for promotion and paid lesser salaries than men in Japan. Why bother slaving for your company when your efforts won't be appreciated, when some oji-san with less capability and skills gets promoted over you and continues to keep rising through the company ranks while you stay stuck where you are? No wonder these women become 'floozies' (ugh), the structure that's in place completely discourages them, a structure that was created, wait for it.... by men!

    Your sexist and homophobic comments are really ugly j4p4nftw.

  • 1

    globalwatcher

    Often when we talk about Human Rights violation, we think about China, Afganistan, the Middle Eastern Countries, however Japan needs to be included on the list as long as these women are still discriminated at work places as listed below.

    Japanese women have been deprived and oppressed in Japanese society over 10 centuries. While the Japanese Constitution guarantees that everyone is equal, however that is just a lip service as nobody are enforcing the "Anti discrimination" law at work place.

    The total social cost is very high as many women go to welfare when they aged. Japan needs to start ENFORCING the labor law protecting them.

    1)Wage discrimination:
    One group is paid less than the white males doing the same work.

    2)Employment discrimination: womenreceive inferior treatment in hiring promotions, assignments etc.

    3)Occupational discrimination:
    women are restricted or prohibited from entering the more desirable, higher-paying occupations.

  • 1

    Wurthington

    Japan's problems are many but I think the real core of where Japan goes wrong it with its Corporate culture. Men in Japan need to finish work at 5PM and go home and have dinner with the family. It starts there.

  • 0

    globalwatcher

    Men in Japan need to finish work at 5PM and go home and have dinner with the family. It starts there.

    I found Japanese OT workers are considered and seen as hard workers while US OT workers are considered as non performers who cannot complete tasks within given hours. Japanese corporations think they own workers as slaves. Shame, shame, shame!! You've got it right, Wurthington. By the way, I have been retired and already paid up my dues.

  • 0

    illsayit

    obviously they didnt include married, mother, not employed women in this survey-they are definitely at the bottom of the rung, and as you all have highlighted, discriminated against making that choice-even this stupid survey discriminated by not including them, hmph, typical,yall just ranting over nothing.

  • 0

    globalwatcher

    one single female out of three in Japan is poor

    illsayit, this research target is a single women in Japan. The purpose of this research is a social cost when women do not have a same access to work as well as men. This is a valid academic reserch.

  • 0

    edojin

    To give tkoind2 a vague answer: I worked for companies that were 100% controlled by Japanese owners.

    As for the other comments above, they draw a clear picture of what is happening here in Japan. Overall, a good read that should be listened to ...

  • -1

    MaximumMan

    TEPCO asked to consider ?? are u kidding...this company should have any rights taken away from it...and the government should be telling them, how its gonna be....government control from now on...

  • 0

    illsayit

    well globalwatcher you just deflated your argument in my books; what is the difference between a single woman and a married one? I havent clicked Japangals good yet-but Im willing too if you need a little more highlighting. Listen, I believe people make choices, we do have that freedom. We dont always make the best choice, or not all choices may be open to us, but if you fail to see that people, women have a choice in what they are doing, and continue to point fingers at discrimination towards women, you cant be selective about which women you are talking about or your whole argument is just swimming in biast.

  • 0

    globalwatcher

    illsayit, the researcher selected a single working women as a target associated with poverty.
    "

    what is the difference between a single woman and a married one', then how do you measure a social cost married women in Japan? Husband is a wage earner, not her. What is your research objectives then?

  • 0

    j4p4nFTW

    sfjp330,

    most low-income unmarried or divorced women are also responsible for children, and it hurts them deeply not to be able to provide a safe, quiet, stable home, nutritious food and at least a small fraction of what their kids' classmates take for granted.

    I don't know exactly what percentage of "low-income unmarried or divorced women" are responsible for children, but it probably is greater than 50%. In Japan of course they have an extended family to help them, unless the family has broken down into the US style "me first" selfish mentality.

    They may think they are bad mothers for conditions that aren't their fault.

    This is interesting. They may think that, but in reality, there are always ways to earn money. If you have children you do what you have to do, and in Japan we have maintained a society where it is legal (via loopholes and vague laws) and not full of shame to earn money as an independent contractor. So there is no excuse to not have the money for children.

  • 0

    Serrano

    "one single female out of three in Japan is poor"

    But, incredibly, they're still rich compared to most people outside Japan.

  • 4

    Carcharodon

    My wife's cousin never married, stayed at her company and after 30 years of slog, toil and barriers she is a high level manager in a big multi national company and makes the big $$$ one of the very few single woman to get onto that plateau.. Not marrying was the probably the the single biggest factor in it all.

  • 0

    globalwatcher

    j4p4nFTWDec. 28, 2011 - 05:37PM JST

    we have maintained a society where it is legal (via loopholes and vague laws??

    I have laughed to tears when I read this. You have missed the whole point on this topic.

    These single mother with children do not have a family network as they used to. Japanese society has been changing as well as many other developed countries. Here in US, some major corporations offer childcare facilities with low cost while single mothers are working. We (US and Japan) should look at a French model for gvt childcare systems that have been very successful for lowering the social cost.

    Sounds like you know some jobs Japanese single mother can do with kids. Be practical and realistic. Please name some for me, will you?. I am delighted to read your job lists that allow them to stay independent and sufficient with reasonable wages to survive (Welfare free) while there are too many Japanese deadbeat dads.

  • 0

    oginome

    I don't know exactly what percentage of "low-income unmarried or divorced women" are responsible for children, but it probably is greater than 50%. In Japan of course they have an extended family to help them, unless the family has broken down into the US style "me first" selfish mentality.

    It's by no means a given that the extended family structure is there anymore . And no, don't blame America, the Japanese government does enough on its own to undermine everything. Look at the scores of homeless men in blue tents. Where was their extended family? Perhaps these men are 100% to blame for where they are in their lives today? Or do you only reserve your condemnation for the single women?

    This is interesting. They may think that, but in reality, there are always ways to earn money. If you have children you do what you have to do, and in Japan we have maintained a society where it is legal (via loopholes and vague laws) and not full of shame to earn money as an independent contractor. So there is no excuse to not have the money for children.

    What about making the loser deadbeat dads be held more accountable ? I can see why abortion is so accepted and the rates for it are so high in Japan when its clear men can get away with not having to raise their child at all, regardless of whether or not they're actually married.

  • 0

    oginome

    @ Serrano

    But, incredibly, they're still rich compared to most people outside Japan.

    What a silly comment to make. It doesn't matter if they're earning twice as much as South Koreans or ten times as much as their Chinese sisters, prices in Japan are so ludicrously high that these women's purchasing power has been whittled down to almost nothing, no matter how relatively 'high' said earnings may appear on paper.

  • 0

    Lieberman2012

    Boo hoo.I think these women just need to talk to their grandmothers and get perspective on life in modern Japan.

  • 0

    illsayit

    wow deadbeat dads? thats really rough, I guess there is nothing like taking control and responsibilty of your sexual life is there. There is jobs for single mothers, like married mothers who work they use child minding facilities, and do what work they can. If you planned on being a single mother then you would know it. If you divorced, then thats a choice you made, same as it was a choice when you married and when you got pregnant and so on.

  • 0

    tmarie

    Indeed things need to change but they never will if the women don't stop quitting when they get married and see marriage as the easy way out. They need to demand change but they don't. I know a handful of women pushed out of ft teaching jobs when they got pregnant. None of them fought it or reported it to hello work. Why?! Mendokusai. Pathetic. These women will then be sahm for a few years and be more than happy to work pt as they get covered by their husband's insurance. They'll complain if they can't get a ft job which I find disturbing. If the women in this country want better working conditions they need to step up and prove they are serious. In the end, the selfish behaviour by some affects those single moms and single women who need a decent wage.

  • -1

    cleo

    These women will then be sahm for a few years.....If the women in this country want better working conditions they need to step up and prove they are serious.

    I would have thought 'better working conditions' included the ability to take a reasonable amount of time (1-3 years) off to raise a family. Demanding every mother be back on the assembly line/in the office before the umbilical cord has had time to dry is NOT a serious way of improving conditions for all. While I agree with you that the 130-man cap on married women's income needs to go if women (heck, all taxpayers) are to get a fair deal, for young, childless women to demand that the elderly and mothers should get to the back of the bus strikes me as being very selfish.

  • 0

    oginome

    wow deadbeat dads? thats really rough

    It's rough? It's a reality.

    I guess there is nothing like taking control and responsibilty of your sexual life is there.

    Same goes for men.

    There is jobs for single mothers, like married mothers who work they use child minding facilities, and do what work they can. If you planned on being a single mother then you would know it. If you divorced, then thats a choice you made, same as it was a choice when you married and when you got pregnant and so on.

    ??????

    This is common sense, nothing anyone has said here contradicts it. The article is about this women being discriminated against in the workplace, which happens whether or not they are single, married, or have kids.

  • 0

    tmarie

    Cleo if they are in ft jobs and want to take the time off for that I support it but they need to stop with quitting g altogether and working pt to be under the 1.3. They will also need to accept that the years they take off after a certain period wont be paid and that they won't go right back where they finished. Unfair to other workers if they come back to work expecting the same title. Indeed parenting is important but lit's changes in two yeas at work.

    I'd also like to see them get out of OL mentality.

  • -1

    Elbuda Mexicano

    Legalize prostitution in Japan now!! Single women are already working at soap land etc...but they need government protection too!

  • 0

    Nessie

    Abe supposes that a key factor is that approximately half of female workers are not employed as regular company staff with full salary, bonus and social insurance, but as part-timers or worker dispatch firms.

    They are employed as worker disptach firms? Huh?

  • 0

    fidaruzki

    those who quit after marriage, are they professionals too?

  • 0

    Michael Hart

    I feel like any reasonably attractive girl could get work as a hostess. That occupation continues to fascinate me

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