Healthcare in JapanHealthcare in Japan is both universal and low-cost. The country provides healthcare to every Japanese citizen and non-Japanese citizen who stays in Japan for more than one year. Japan’s healthcare system is uniform and equitable, providing equal medical services regardless of a person’s income. Here are five facts about healthcare in Japan.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Japan

  1. Everyone has health coverage. Established in 1961, Japan’s universal health insurance sought to provide people with equal access to “necessary and adequate” medical care at low costs. Two key characteristics of Japan’s healthcare are that medical care is affordable and equally accessible to everyone. Citizens can either receive coverage through social insurance if they work for a corporation or through national medical insurance if they are self-employed. Patients and physicians have great freedom in their choices. Patients can choose their own physicians, and physicians are able to freely choose the best procedures, tests and medications they see fit for their patients.
  2. Insurance plans vary for individuals. Japan has three main forms of health insurance. The first insurance system covers employees who work at companies. Companies deduct insurance premiums for healthcare from employees’ paychecks. The second insurance system covers citizens who are self-employed. Factors such as the individual’s income, the number of people living in the household and any assets determine premiums. The third system is a pooling fund, with premiums coming from the previous two plans for medical costs of people 70 years or older. The three medical plans cover citizens from all backgrounds, ensuring that everyone has access to healthcare. Because everyone has coverage, there are seldom issues of people in low-income households or poverty lacking medical care.
  3. Payment is through a fee schedule. Patients pay for their medical care through a national fee-for-service schedule. The government sets the schedule, which includes both primary and specialist care fees. Since the fee schedule is uniform and applies to everyone, all providers “share the same prices for medicines, devices and services.” The poor and the elderly also receive government subsidies to pay for their health insurance. This ensures that the poor do not have any disadvantages in receiving medical care.
  4. Japan’s healthcare plans provide various medical services. The insurance plans include primary and specialty care, visits to hospitals, mental health care and most dental care. Plans also cover prescription drugs that physicians and hospice care approve for the elderly. For pregnant women, the local governments often subsidize check-ups, making it easier for women to access adequate medical care. People with disabilities also get aid from the government. They receive government subsidies to pay for any equipment such as wheelchairs or hearing aids. By making medical care both comprehensive and accessible to disadvantaged groups, healthcare in Japan looks out for the poor.
  5. Japan’s healthcare is extremely equitable. An individual’s income makes less of an impact in influencing the quality of care in Japan in comparison with many other countries. Because the fee schedule for medical care is uniform across the nation, everyone pays the same prices. Furthermore, physicians receive the same fee from patients with or without government assistance due to government subsidies for low-income people. Therefore, Japan’s healthcare system provides no incentives for physicians to treat patients differently. Everyone receives equal treatment and equal access to medical resources, regardless of their social class. This allows the disadvantaged and people living in poverty in Japan to receive the “necessary and adequate” care that the country’s universal health insurance pledges.

Japan’s healthcare system operates on a national fee schedule and is universal in nature. The fee schedule allows healthcare in Japan to be equitable as well as cost-efficient, ensuring that medical care is available to everyone. It also keeps total health expenditures at a minimum due to its set, uniform fees. Healthcare in Japan demonstrates how people in poverty do not experience exclusion from or have difficulties finding medical care, but rather enjoy equal access to healthcare like everyone else.

– Silvia Huang
Photo: Flickr

Education in Japan
Despite spending less on education than many other developed countries, Japan has one of the best education systems in the world. To better understand how this is achieved, here are 10 facts about education in Japan.

10 Facts About Education in Japan

  1. High school dropout rate: Japan’s high school dropout rate is at a low 1.27%. In contrast, the average high school dropout rate in the U.S. is at 4.7%.
  2. Equality in education: Japan ranks highly in providing equal educational opportunities for students, regardless of socioeconomic status. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Japan ranks as one of the highest in education equity. In Japan, only nine percent of the variation in student performance results from students’ socioeconomic background. In comparison, the average variation in the OECD is 14%, while the average variation in the U.S. is 17%.
  3. Teacher mobility: Japan assigns teachers to schools in a different way than most education systems. Unlike most countries, individual schools do not have the power to hire teachers. Instead, prefectures assign teachers to the schools and students who need them most. At the beginning of teachers’ careers, they move schools every three years. This helps teachers work in various environments instead of staying in one socioeconomic group of schools. As teachers advance in their careers, they move around less.
  4. Frugal spending: Japan does not spend a lot of money on its education system, with the Japanese government investing 3.3% of its GDP on education. This is over one percentage point less than other developed countries and is a result of Japan’s frugal spending. For example, the Japanese government invests in simple school buildings, rather than decorative ones. The country also requires paperback textbooks and fewer on-campus administrators. Finally, students and faculty take care of cleaning the school, resulting in no need for janitors.
  5. Teaching entrance exams: The teaching entrance exam in Japan is extremely difficult. It is of similar difficulty to the U.S. bar exam. Passing the exam results in job security until the age of 60, a stable salary and a guaranteed pension.
  6. Personal energy: Japanese education requires that teachers put in a great amount of personal energy. More common than not, many teachers work 12 or 13 hours a day. Sometimes teachers even work until nine at night.
  7. Emphasis on problem-solving: Teachers focus on teaching students how to think. Unlike some other countries that lean towards teaching students exactly what will be on standardized tests, Japan focuses on teaching students how to problem-solve. By emphasizing critical thinking, Japanese students are better able to solve problems they have never seen before on tests.
  8. Teacher collaboration: Japanese education highlights pedagogy development. Teachers design new lessons, and then present those to fellow educators in order to receive feedback. Teachers also work to identify school-wide problems and band together to find solutions. The education system constantly encourages teachers to think of new ways to better education in Japan and engage students.
  9. Grade progression: Japanese students cannot be held back. Every student can progress to the next grade regardless of their attendance or grades. The only test scores that truly matter are the high school and university entrance exams. Despite this seemingly unregulated structure, Japan’s high school graduation rate is 96.7%, while the U.S. (where attendance and good grades are necessary to proceed to the next grade) has a graduation rate of 83%.
  10. Traditional teaching methods: Despite being one of the most progressive countries in science and technology, Japan does not use much technology in schools. Many schools prefer pen and paper. To save money, schools use electric fans instead of air conditioning and kerosene heaters instead of central heating. However, technology is now slowly being introduced into classrooms with more use of the internet and computers for assignments.

Through these methods, Japan has established that teaching and schooling are highly regarded aspects of society. By looking at what Japan has done, other countries might be able to learn and adapt to this minimalistic, equitable education model.

– Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in JapanHomelessness in Japan is currently a significant issue. While the number of homeless people in Japan is in steady decline, Japan’s national survey still found there were 5,534 homeless people in 2017. What makes homelessness in Japan unique is its low visibility. This poses a distinct challenge for those trying to reduce the number of homeless in the nation.

History of Homelessness in Japan

There are many causes of homelessness in Japan. While more recently, many have become homeless due to failed loan payments or corporate restructuring, in the 1990s, significant changes in the economy led to a rise in homelessness.

After the conclusion of the Second World War, there was a demand for informal day-laborers. Under this system, men would come to day-labor neighborhoods in the early morning. There, job brokers from construction companies would then hire them as manual laborers for a day.

As Japan’s economy matured and diversified, this custom fell out of favor, leaving many without work. Furthermore, the Japanese economy’s shift to the service industry, an influx of young foreign workers and the advancing age of these early laborers all served to push these men to homelessness.

Homelessness and Japanese Culture

Homelessness in Japan divides into visible and invisible. Both groups, however, are less visible to outsiders compared to the homeless in other counties. Part of this low visibility seems to be rooted in the Japanese culture’s emphasis on politeness. Based on Confucian values, there is a significant focus on loyalty, justice, shame, refined manners, modesty and honor.

For the homeless people of Japan, these cultural emphases often make them feel ashamed of themselves. Visitors to Japan, for example, often observe that the homeless of Japan rarely ask for money from pedestrians. In addition, the Japanese culture’s emphasis on politeness also means the homeless try to stay out of everyone’s way. Oftentimes, the homeless will set up their shelters along remote locations such as riverbanks. If the homeless have shelter in crowded areas like subway stations, they will remove themselves during peak hours. However, there are homeless populations in Japan even less visible than this.

Internet Café Refugees

Many nonprofit and advocacy organizations in Japan claim that the Japanese government’s count of the homeless population is under-researched. These organizations claim the government’s figure doesn’t account for the Japanese homeless who live in fast-food restaurants and internet cafés. The term “internet café refugees” refers to a group of homeless who spend their nights at internet cafés because they do not have a stable residence.

The metropolitan government survey in 2018 revealed there were an estimated 15,000 people who stayed at these cafés every day during the week. Approximately 4,000 of these people were homeless. In addition, 3,000 of these people did not have stable jobs. For these irregular workers, there are internet cafés that offer amenities such as private booths, showers and laundry services. A Japanese worker named Fumiya said it costs him about $750 a month to live in an Internet café.

Alleviation of Homelessness

There are many organizations in Japan that are actively trying to alleviate the current state of homelessness in the country. Tsukuroi Tokyo Fund, for example, aims to provide housing, employment and a place of belonging to the homeless of Japan.

Tsukuroi House, a shelter run by Tsukuroi Tokyo Fund, turns abandoned, vacant homes and rooms into shelters for the homeless. Tsuyoshi Inaba, the director of the organization, claimed about 40 to 50 people used these housing facilities in 2017. He further claimed that these formerly homeless people were able to start living on their own afterward.

The organization also established “Shio no Michi,” a café run by the organization. The café hires numerous homeless people, with or without mental or physical ailments, to work the shop.

Moving Forward

The current state of homelessness in Japan is characterized by the low-visibility of the homeless. While efforts by organizations like Tsukuroi Tokyo Fund are having a significant impact, more needs to be done to bring this issue into the spotlight. Moving forward, the Japanese government and other humanitarian organizations need to prioritize finding solutions to the economic and financial issues that cause homelessness in the nation.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Innovation Capabilities
Innovation is essential for countries to develop, but there are countless barriers to innovation capabilities. Innovation capabilities are the parts of a production process that people cannot buy but are critical to supporting and driving innovation. Companies must learn and develop these elements. These elements include basic organizational skills, human resource management, planning routines and logistical abilities.

The Importance of Innovation

Without innovation, companies cannot evolve and be sustainable. This, in turn, impacts the progress of whole countries. A lack of innovation leads to people being unable to leverage their resources.

According to the World Bank, many developing countries suffer from low innovation. Low innovation includes the following:

  1. Weaker managerial and technological capabilities and the lack of ability to cultivate them.
  2. Weaker government capabilities.
  3. A general lack of physical, human and knowledge capital.
As a result, developing countries often have a difficult time progressing through innovation. In 1900, many now developed countries were in a similar state to developing countries today. These developed countries were able to capitalize on their innovation capabilities and successfully manage new technologies. This is what developing countries must now do to progress.

Innovative Examples

There are several examples of how developed countries have capitalized on innovation, compared to those still developing:

  1. Brazil was able to upgrade technologically after a slump in its iron industry.
  2. Japan took its textile technologies and modified them for the needs of different locales. It also diversified into machinery, chemicals, cables, metals and banking. This enabled Japan to establish its first leading manufacturing industry.
  3. The United States leveraged its copper resources. It pushed the frontiers of metallurgy and chemistry through a combination of high-level human capital and a network of universities and laboratories.

Developing countries, however, have had trouble reaching the same goals. While Norway was able to leverage its oil and gas deposits with its high-tech sector, Nigeria was not. Spain and Chile were unable to successfully identify and adopt new advances in mining and metallurgy for their copper industries. This eventually leads to these country’s selling out to foreign interests who could.

Production Capabilities: Management and Government

Two subsets of capabilities directly impact innovation including production and technology. Production includes management and government, while technology includes incentives and the environment.

Management focuses on the organization and maintenance of a company. Developing countries tend to have weaker managerial capabilities than developed countries. In these developing countries, managers tend to not have as much education. This greatly impacts their capabilities to properly identify and understand high-return on potential projects, take responsibility for long-term planning and implement new talent.

Limited competition can prop up inefficient companies. A lack of government support, however, makes it difficult for more efficient companies to effectively incentivize their workforce and upgrade their technologies.

A country’s productivity can illustrate an example of the effects of different management practices. There is a 25 percent difference in productivity between developing countries and those in the United States.

Governments organize and support how effectively companies run. In developing countries, governments generally do not have enough human resources or they are unable to efficiently organize policies. The organization, design and implementation of these policies help to rectify market or systemic failures and promote innovation.

These capabilities are the rationale and designing of a policy, efficacy of implementation, comprehensibility for the National Innovation System (NIS) and consistency. Most developing countries, however, are unable to meet these requirements.

Technology and Innovation: Organization and Environment

Governments and management often work to organize companies. It is the organization of the company itself, however, that allows it to implement and expand new technologies. Companies must incentivize workers so they can receive the tasks that make them the most productive. This also empowers workers to brainstorm new ideas and improvements for products or systems.

This type of organization creates an innovation-friendly environment for the company. These incentives show positive influences on creativity and innovation in workers and the company as a whole.

An example of innovation at work is the Aquafresh company in Ghana. It dealt with fierce competition from Asia, eventually discovering that the best way to confront this competition was not to address it at all. Aquafresh started as a clothing company but later reinvented itself, turning to soft drinks. This was possible due to its innovation-friendly environment and organization. This environment eased the transition and sustained them through the change.

Solutions for the Barriers to Innovation Capabilities

Adopting better managerial and organizational practices can push companies to innovate in products, processes and quality. This can also inspire companies to create innovative projects, which can lead to new products and technologies.

Access to human, knowledge and technological capabilities increases a developing country’s innovation potential. This renders foreign aid less important as the countries learn to become self-sustainable.

Companies in developing countries need help with overcoming the barriers to innovation capabilities. If the National Innovation System could focus on supporting companies with better capabilities, investing in higher-level human capital and management and the development of capable governments, a larger innovation system could come into fruition for developing countries. This, in turn, would benefit the entire world.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Japanese Organizations Combating Poverty
Just like other highly developed nations, Japan actively pursues international affairs. People tend to think of America as a country that aids in poverty reduction before Japan, with famous American humanitarian groups like the Red Cross or Salvation Army in mind. Japan has charities of its own, though; a handful of them focus on eliminating poverty in various locations. Here is a list of Japanese organizations combating poverty on a global scale, expanding the visions of a better future from Japan to the rest of the globe.

The Nippon Foundation

One Japanese organization is the Nippon Foundation, which participates in several areas of activity, including how to enrich communities and bring them closer together. The Nippon Foundation describes itself as a social innovation hub, but it is also a nonprofit organization providing grants to fund research. The Establishment of Model Learning Deaf School in the Philippines receives around $161,000 in grants. Scholarships, fellowships and supporting projects in social issues are also part of the Foundation’s scope. Projects of the Nippon Foundation branch out into multiple fields; it provides resources to directly address poverty itself and its reach goes to a diverse number of countries.

One focus of the organization is child poverty, as it attempts to bring awareness to the issue. Important research in economics helps display the burden children have when they try to attend schools. More specifically, the project targeted the fact that a difference in education produces a difference in income, and a higher income leads to more taxes and social security premiums, reducing the government’s fiscal load. By comparing scenarios, the organization proved that a higher number of well-paying jobs yields significantly more premiums.

The Foundation set up an initiative in Africa to teach agricultural farmers how to increase their production, wishing to teach farmers how to process and preserve crops rather than only provide resources. It aimed to create a value chain or framework for sustainable agriculture to help farmers establish a market for their crops.

In Myanmar, the Foundation supported the building of schools and treatment for leprosy. From the 1960s until the present day, the cases of leprosy per 10,000 have reduced from 250 to 10. The Nippon Foundation began building schools and similar infrastructure during Myanmar’s period of military rule, where the country did not connect with the rest of the world. The government directly requested the organization to establish schools, eventually creating a link with the local communities it was helping.

Oxfam Japan

Oxfam believes that poverty is an injustice in a rich world and that every person should live with dignity. Comprised of a confederation of smaller organizations, Oxfam Japan also places heavy emphasis on community and global interactivity. Poor people, Oxfam believes, should possess a voice in the decisions that affect them and enjoy an improved livelihood in the process.

The organization’s actions include emergency responses that provide immediate relief to natural disasters and conflict as well as long term development. The organization places a significant effort on assisting those impacted by the Syrian crisis. The organization provided water tank installations, vouchers and cash assistance for foods and sanitation goods. It also distributed essential items like blankets during winter.

Apart from long and short-term program work and relief, Oxfam Japan practices advocacy. Lobbying often influences the powerful and the organization is using its years of experience and research to address the issues revolving around poverty. Oxfam then amplifies this advocacy work with campaigning, which raises the voices of the people, invigorating the general public. Topics of their campaigns include debt relief, basic education and humanitarian response.

Japan considers raising awareness of disadvantaged citizens important. The fact that Japan belongs to the Group of Eight (G8), or the eight most industrialized countries in the world, means that it can accomplish substantial influence when it addresses poverty. Oxfam shares its experiences helping around the world and in Japan to pique interest in global affairs. Campaigning to Japanese officials about global poverty helps prioritize this issue on the international agenda.

Japan’s Emergency Nonprofit Organization (JEN)

A third Japanese organization combating poverty is JEN or Japan Emergency Nonprofit Organization. Responding to disasters across the globe, JEN meets the current needs of its recipients with emergency relief and reconstruction assistance.

JEN enlists projects in different countries. One example is when the organization sent emergency relief goods to Haiti after its 2010 earthquake. Later, the organization sent support to repair water and sanitation; it taught citizens how to lead self-reliant lives after the quake upheaved the normal facilities they had grown used to.

The organization carried out a similar action plan after an earthquake in Indonesia in 2009. It delivered emergency supplies to the people in the mountainous areas of the affected Indonesian coast first due to the little attention that area received. It also implemented workshops to teach how to lessen the effects of natural disasters. After also realizing the government provided food and water but not housing repair, JEN provided toolkits to make reconstruction possible. These projects align with the mission statement of the organization that includes addressing the specific needs in a situation and focusing on the people most left out.

Community participation is also invaluable to JEN’s goal. A section on the organization’s website seeks out volunteers and invites participation in its events and lectures. JEN welcomes corporate and foundation supporters, suggesting ways smaller groups can support them, such as mobilizing a workforce.

JEN tries to retain strong engagement by providing a news page with periodic updates, lists of meet-ups, lectures and even wine and fishing events. These are all to spread awareness of the countries that require attention.

These Japanese organizations combating poverty are still up and running today. Each of their efforts has helped reduce the impact of disaster within the countries they have aided and allowed the countries to adapt quickly.

– Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr

food security health and nutrition projectZimbabwe has become a country of international focus since UNICEF, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the Zimbabwean government have been working together to feed starving people in the nation. The Food Security, Health and Nutrition Project has bloomed from that collaboration and poses a solution to undernourishment in susceptible areas in Zimbabwe.

UNICEF is a charitable organization that people know for its accomplishments in improving living conditions for the world’s impoverished. About 190 countries have benefitted from UNICEF programs, giving millions of children the chance to live, thrive and achieve. The organization has most recently shifted its focus to hunger in Zimbabwe in response to the increasing rates of global hunger in 2016.

Hunger in Zimbabwe

Malnutrition and its consequences are central concerns for policymakers in Zimbabwe. Nearly 650,000 children under 5 years old, or 27 percent, suffer from chronic malnutrition. UNICEF considers this statistic high compared to the rates in other nearby countries, which range from 19 to 31 percent. Children living in urban areas are more likely to suffer malnutrition than those in rural settings because preserving a healthy diet is harder to do.

Natural disasters and disease that plague cultivated areas in Zimbabwe have also inflated the rate of malnutrition. About 92 percent of Zimbabweans living in rural households rely on agriculture as the primary source of food and income. Drought, floods and livestock death all weaken the environment that produces healthful resources.

What is The Food Security, Health and Nutrition Project?

The Food Security, Health and Nutrition Project emerged in March 2019 as a means of solving undernourishment in Zimbabwe. Estimates determine that the initiative benefits nearly 130,000 individuals living in 11 regions of the country.

The program’s formula focuses on building a resilient environment that will remain productive throughout common hardships that eradicate food supply. Droughts and floods result in insufficient water flow, and as such, the project plans to forge weir dams and nutrition gardens that will allow crops to flourish in disastrous circumstances.

In addition, this project identifies women and children as particularly vulnerable groups. The program is providing financial and nutritional support to pregnant women living in maternity waiting homes throughout the country. This aid aims to ensure that mothers can provide a nutritious diet for their children, and thus, mitigate the prevalence of malnutrition in Zimbabwe.

A Recent Advocate

Most recently, Japan demonstrated support for the Food Security, Health and Nutrition Project. In 2018, the Japanese government donated $1 million to the initiative. The country’s funds will go towards crafting infrastructure to preserve water supply in flood-affected and drought-affected communities across Zimbabwe.

Japan’s lofty donation is just one way in which the country has positively contributed to third world development. In 2015, Japan provided $1.5 million for developing irrigation and harvesting systems in rural communities in Zimbabwe. There were more than 9,300 beneficiaries of this new framework. Japan also focuses on instilling a sentiment of independence, as it advocates for the human security necessary for individuals to shine.

While Japan has established a particular passion for curing hunger in Zimbabwe, the country requires more international help to solve undernourishment. In 2018, UNICEF found that nearly 821 million individuals are suffering from an insufficient food supply. The Food Security, Health and Nutrition Project is just one example of an effort to assuage this recorded hunger. A fitted policy that addresses the country’s specific issues is an efficient way to provide relief and development.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Pros of Immigration

While many view immigration as a cultural crisis, the pros of immigration are significant. Immigration is a point of contention as immigrants change the face of a population and bring their own culture with them. Moreover, immigrants receive criticism if they do not fully integrate, by not speaking the country’s primary language. Some people simply feel there’s no room for immigrants. They fear their jobs will be taken or undercut by the low wages some immigrants are willing to work for.

In spite of these concerns, it is undeniable that immigrants infuse much needed vitality into the economy. They build businesses, create jobs and bring new perspectives. Most importantly, welcoming immigrants supports and promotes an international standard of human rights. Everyone should be able to settle somewhere safe, healthy and stable—especially if their native country is not so.

Below is an immigration case study of sorts, demonstrating the economic benefits of immigration in Japan, the U.S., and Western Europe.

Japan

Plagued by an aging population and declining birth rates, immigration provides Japan with a new source of young workers. The Japanese Health Ministry predicts that by 2060, the country’s population will fall to 86.74 million. This is a 40 million decrease since 2010. Currently, 20 percent of Japan’s population is over 65 years old. As a result, this burdens Japan’s shrinking workforce with the funds for their pensions and healthcare. But immigration into Japan ensures the nation’s economy can maintain itself as people retire.

Japan is historically unwelcoming to immigrants, believing peace and harmony to be rooted in homogeneity. As such, the nation’s immigration policy reflects this. Japan only allows a small number of highly skilled workers into the country. This policy has been in place since 1988 to combat labor shortages. However, this is no longer enough to combat Japan’s worsening economy. In 2018, labor shortages in the nation were the highest they had been in 40 years.

However, the pros of immigration in Japan are clear. Without it, Japan faces an incredibly insecure economic future. With no sign of population growth, the nation’s perpetually shrinking workforce will become unable to support its retired citizens. However, immigrants can round out the workforce in Japan. And they can neutralize any economic woes the nation might face in the future by preventing labor shortages.

USA

The cultural and economic contributions immigrants have made to America are vast, overwhelmingly advantageous and long-lasting.

A study done by economists at Harvard, Yale and the London School of Economics found US counties that accepted more immigrants between 1860 and 1920 are doing better today as a result. These counties have significantly higher incomes, higher educational achievement, less poverty and lower unemployment because immigrants provided the low-skilled labor needed to support rapid industrialization. Undeniably, immigrants have always and still continue to increase economic growth in America.

Similarly, immigrants in the U.S. have been integral to innovation and entrepreneurship. Half of all startups in America worth over a billion dollars have been founded by immigrants. Eleven of these startups employ more than 17,000 people in the U.S. Some of these companies, such as Uber and WeWork, have significantly changed American culture. They modify the way Americans live their daily lives. Therefore, the pros of immigration in the U.S. are grounded in the diversity of thought brought by immigrants, necessary to further American innovation and economic growth.

Western Europe

Like Japan, Western Europe is battling an aging population and declining birth rates. Fertility rates are expected to hit zero in the next decade. Consequently, this region may not be able to sustain its expansive social welfare programs as its workforce shrinks and retired populations grow. In Germany, the median age is 47.1 years, the oldest in Western Europe. This is only slightly younger than Japan’s 47.3 years. Besides convincing its native populations to have more children, immigration is their only alternative.

Immigration into Western Europe is an undeniable win for both the immigrants and the host countries. Many new immigrants in Western Europe have escaped unstable regimes, religious persecution, and economic downturn in North African and Middle Eastern countries. Thus, immigrants give the region a younger workforce that is able to sustain the region’s expensive social benefits. In return, Western Europe provides immigrants with jobs, stability, and a safe place to live.

While still a very divisive topic, the pros of immigration lie in its plethora of economic benefits. It is undeniable that immigration has always been the driver of economic growth, despite all of the criticism. Immigration provides immigrants with an alternative to oppressive regimes and other instability, of course. And the pros of immigration for nations absolutely outweigh the cons.

Jillian Baxter
Photo: Pixabay

starving to death
Whale hunting in Japan is immaterial to feeding the population. As a result, many wonder why the nation continues to practice the antiquated ritual, while a bulk of its citizens are starving and fighting an uphill battle against the national welfare program. Japan’s current poverty rate is 15.3 percent, and more than 19 million citizens are living below the poverty line.

Welfare and Whale Hunting in Japan

The Japanese government has defended whaling practices by claiming that the practice is a part of the ancient Japanese culture. From the 1940s to the mid-1960s, whales were the biggest source of meat for the Japanese people. This was due to food shortages throughout the country. The government found an inexpensive solution in canning whale meat and serving in the government-funded national school lunch programs. At the highest point of the hunt, 24,000 whales were killed in just one year.

However, the economic climate has shifted. Japan has one of the wealthiest economies in the world and can easily afford to import meat from the United States or Australia. Currently, with Japan leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the financial burden of whaling will again fall on taxpayers. Expenditure of citizens’ tax money on whaling is justified by classifying whaling as research. The International Court of Justice has disproved Japan’s research claims, yet, funding that could be allocated to other benefits, like welfare, continues to be allocated to the practice.

According to a poll in 2015, the average consumption by the Japanese people of whale meat was just one ounce per person. Whale meat in Japanese cuisine has only been popular post World War II, and it would be categorized as nostalgia food by older generations. Nevertheless, Japan continues to fund whaling with $50 million annually. Regarding the Japanese welfare system, the central government acknowledges 75 percent of the costs, and Japan is planning on cutting back even further to their system.

When it comes to welfare,  Japanese citizens do not have the right to be taken care of by the government. Welfare in Japan is most commonly utilized by either the elderly, single mothers or handicapped citizens. Currently, there are five million unemployed Japanese citizens. Since 2008, the Japanese government has tried to make acquiring government assistance more manageable. However, most applicants are obliged to ask their family for help before applying, and impoverished people who are physically capable of working are still ineligible.  Professor Hiroshi Sugimura from Hoesei University in Tokyo said: “Local governments tend to believe that using taxpayer money to help people in need is doing a disservice to the citizens, only those who pay taxes are citizens.” The government currently gives 3.4 trillion Yen to welfare a year, but this only amounts to 10 percent of all tax revenues.

With the strict guidelines of the welfare program, people in need often slip through the cracks. Just in the past ten years alone, 700 Japanese citizens have starved to death, most of them elderly people. While the poverty rate in Japan does not reach the global levels (nearly 3.4 billion people, or half of the world’s population, struggle to meet basic needs),  Japan is currently in the lowest category of children in need, with the OECD estimating there are 3.5 million Japanese children who are living in relative poverty.

What Is Being Done?

An organization called Second Harvest provides the only nationwide food bank in Japan. Since 2002, Second Harvest has been food security for the needy. It delivers to children’s homes, women’s shelters and handicapped facilities. Second Harvest also works tirelessly with companies to acquires left-over food that is still edible and recycles it into free meals.

The Japanese government supports the Sustainable Development Goals, one of which is to bring hunger to zero by the year 2030. Japan is putting forth procedures that will help build a sustainable society and help with social improvements. By incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals, Japan is hoping to prioritize ancillary benefits, far removed from previous oversight, promoting human rights for every citizen.

The heated issue of whale hunting in Japan and the hunger of its citizens has been recognized by the Japanese government. Acknowledging the fact that many citizens are starving to death, and few are interested in eating whale meat, is an impetus for the government to remedy the issue. Solutions are being established and proposed on a regular basis, and with time. these two issues will be combatted and Japan’s healing as a nation will happen quickly.

– Jennifer O’Brien
Photo: Google

Aging and Poverty in Asia
As Asia sees an encouraging decrease in poverty, it now faces new problems it didn’t have to worry about a few decades ago: a quickly aging population. As a result, the workforce will shrink significantly and elderly care may become more of a burden on young people. What does this mean for aging and poverty in Asia? This article aims to discuss the challenges of aging in Asian countries and to situate the problem of poverty reduction.

The Speed and Scope of Aging and Poverty in Asia

The Asian population is aging at a speed history has not yet witnessed. According to a report released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), it only took forty years for the percentage of elders in Japan to triple, while a similar process took place over the span of about 150 years in France. According to estimates, the dramatic demographic change will take even fewer years in China and Korea.

More than half of the world’s senior residents over 60 years old are living in Asia and the Pacific. By 2050, the elderly population of the world is expected to grow over two billion, and about 1.3 billion will be in the Asian and Pacific region.

Potential Consequences of Aging in the Context of Poverty

Aging and poverty in Asia are closely related. According to a 2012 Peking University report, 22.9 percent of the elderly population live in poverty in China. The report also said that senior citizens living below the poverty line are more often in need of daily care and assistance with everyday activities since there is a negative correlation between poverty and health.

The poverty rate among people over 65 years old is around 19.4 percent in Japan, and among the elderly poor, women are especially at a disadvantage. The proportion of the poor among the elderly in the Republic of Korea is as high as 49.6 percent.

In Japan, young people who were not poor become vulnerable to falling into poverty during old age. According to a 2013 Japan Institute of Life Insurance study, over 80 percent of those surveyed were concerned that there wouldn’t be enough pensions after they retire.

The aging process in rural areas is taking place faster than that in urban areas. Professor John Traphagan, a specialist of population movement in Japan from the University of Texas, points out that rural areas will likely be affected more significantly by poverty. Professor Traphagan, who conducts fieldwork in rural Japan, could already see the effects of aging on the elderly population in rural parts of the country: “I have met older individuals or couples who lack family living nearby or are uncomfortable living with their children who are living in very difficult conditions.”

What Needs to be Done

The national economies in the Asian and Pacific region will be hit with a shrinking workforce. It is necessary to encourage elders to work and to motivate more females to join the workforce, though the effectiveness of these policies is still unknown.

Governments facing the challenge of a quickly aging population will have to provide for a sustainable pension system, meaning higher government expenditure. A gradually increased tax rate is already enforced in Japan. With an increasing awareness of a quickly aging population, governments can overcome the challenges of aging in Asia.

– Feng Ye
Photo: Flickr

Single Mothers in Japan
Despite the stigma against single parents, single mothers in Japan are moving forward with the help of the Tokyo-based organization Single Mother by Choice and the new government-provided Child-Rearing Allowance.

Single Mothers in Japan

Since World War II, Japan has grown to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It boasts modern buildings, clean streets and is home to some of the richest people on earth. Yet, Japan’s poverty rate has consistently risen for the past 30 years, reaching 16.3 percent in 2017. However, the country still appears to be healthy and thriving. This dissonance between facts and appearances is due to the stigma surrounding poverty in Japan. Rather than admit to being poor, many people in Japan mask their financial needs hoping not to draw attention to themselves.

This problem is even worse for single mothers in Japan, who not only face greater cultural shame more consistently, but also have a harder time providing enough for their families. A whopping 56 percent of single-parent homes in which the parent is working live in poverty. As women have children, they often can no longer work the long, rigorous hours expected of Japanese employees. This time restriction then forces them to assume lower paid jobs with worse benefits — working women in Japan make 30 percent less on average than men doing the same job.

Cultural and Societal Norms

Japanese culture also dismisses female higher education, men often feeling “uncomfortable” to share the classroom with women; girls are pushed into two-year vocational schools instead. This setup is also seen as a benefit to women as they will then, allegedly, have more time to find a husband and start rearing children in the societally accepted timeframe. Such a collective attitude makes it more difficult for women to access education to higher paying jobs, and dismisses women who might pursue relationships and children outside of marriage.

The organization Single Mother by Choice was founded in Tokyo in 2014 to empower women and fight the taboo surrounding being a single mother in Japan. The group provides a community for women who desire to lead lives outside of Japan’s norms, and supplies information on prenatal care.

Single Mother By Choice

The organization focuses specifically on women who have chosen before becoming pregnant to have a child and raise them on their own. This decision can be especially difficult as the only legal use in Japan for sperm banks are for married couples, so many women become pregnant with a partner they do not intend to marry. Members of the group desire to end the myth that children of single parents cannot be happy and that women must be lifelong wives to be mothers.

The Japanese government has also begun to implement changes to help the growing numbers of single parents. Incentive programs have been put in place to bring single-parent families into smaller towns in the country, which helps grow local communities and provides the parent with a job, car and covers moving cost.

Moreover, many cities have implemented child-rearing allowances for single parents. This welfare system supplies families in need with residual income so that they will be able to effectively care for their children. As social stigmas begins to change, single mothers in Japan will continue to fight to live in a country that respects all tracks to motherhood — married or not.

– Sarah Dean
Photo: Flickr