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

Japan’s foreign policy
Japan has an advanced transportation system, outstanding outcomes in the field of technology research and a matured business development model. As the world’s third-largest economy, Japan has been expanding its foreign policies to aid developing countries and boosts the global economy.

From Japan’s international cooperation on Pandemic Influenza to NERICA (New Rice For Africa), Japan plays an essential role in solving urgent and consistent poverty issues. Its foreign policies promote the progress of eliminating poverty worldwide. There are three cases of how Japan’s foreign policy solves global poverty problems.

Examples of Japan’s Foreign Policy

  1. NERICA: Food shortage is a continuous problem in Africa. The main reason is low production field. NERICA stands for New Rice for Africa. The Japanese government cooperated with the Africa Rice Center to introduce this program in 1992. This program is applied extensively in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).The Africa Rice Center cooperated with its partners to produce interspecific hybridization, which can combine advantages of two species to increase the yield of rice. In the meantime, the interspecific grains have better ability to tolerate drought, pest and disease. These grains have higher nutrition as well. Japan has adopted various plans to apply different irrigated rice production technology in Tanzania since the 1970s, which has boosted the yield of rice to three times larger than the national average.In 2014, the total production of milled rice in Uganda was 154,050 metric tonnes, but the consumption rate was 215,707 metric tonnes. NERICA plays a vital role to ameliorate the Ugandan food shortage problem by increasing rice varieties. Most farmers are planting NERICA rice because its mature time is shorter, the yield is higher and it is more tolerant to drought and viruses. For example, NERICA 6 is immune to Yellow Mortal Virus and NERICA 1 only takes 100 days to mature.NERICA is a typical example of how Japan’s foreign policy solves global poverty problems. It ameliorates African food shortage problems efficiently and provides an alternative way for people in SSA to access higher-nutrition and larger-yielding grains.
  2. STI: In September 2015, the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda lists 17 goals to eliminate global poverty issues in sustainable ways. Japan continuously contributes itself to achieve the 2030 Agenda.Japan has abundant human resources and advanced technology. It can help reach the agenda through STI, which stands for science, technology and innovation. STI can contribute to boosting development by using limited sources.Japan will contribute its extensive database, which covers from the ocean up to space, to facilitate the efficiency of international cooperation. In addition, Japan will facilitate people-centered development by offering consistent assistance in areas of information and communications technology, research and development, industrial human resources development and vocational training.In 2015, the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation was established to solve social issues and boost economic growth. The Japanese government will spend $1.8 billion on STI in the next three years mainly on high technology development which has international benefits.For example, outbreak alert innovation can reinforce surveillance of infectious diseases, and mobile innovation can facilitate the urban transportation system by using wireless communication for extension of green light. STI acts as a “bridging force” to connect Japan with the globe by assisting technology training processes and sharing developing STI experiences.
  3. Infrastructure Aid: Japan has consistently been sharing its sources on infrastructure building with other countries. For example, in September 2017, Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail was launched when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited India. This high-speed railway corridor stretches from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, which is a total of 508.17 km.This project is the symbol of cooperation between Japan and India. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered $12 billion in loans to build India’s first bullet train. In the meantime, the Japanese government agreed to bear 80 percent of the total project cost when Prime Minister Abe visited India in September of 2017. Assisting in building infrastructure is another way Japan’s foreign policy solves global poverty problems.

Overall, Japan’s foreign policy helps solve global poverty by sharing resources and advanced technology. For Latin America, Japan will promote its development by improving trade and investment to create a more comprehensive environment for economic growth. For the Middle East, Japan works on overcoming peace-building and human resources development, as well as a sustainable and stable energy supply. Japan’s foreign policy solves global poverty problems through science, technology and innovation.

– Judy Lu
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in JapanJapan is a sovereign island nation located on the eastern coast of Asia and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk to the East China Sea. Its household income per capita in 2017 was $1.7 billion, and Japan ranks the top three world’s largest economy, only behind U.S. and China. In 2016, its GDP reached $4.94 trillion.

Japan has outstanding technology achievements, a comprehensive social system and a very advanced transportation system that included bullet trains 51 years ago. Even though the overall economic condition of Japan is very mature, there are severe poverty issues behind these numbers. Here are top 10 facts about poverty in Japan.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Japan

  1. The Japanese economy decreased sharply since 2012. While the world GDP grew from $74.89 trillion to $74.1 trillion from 2012 to 2014, Japanese GDP shrank from $6.203 trillion $4.85 trillion in 2015.
  2. Japan sets disposable income below $14,424 as the poverty level. In 2013, there was 12 percent of the national population under the poverty level.
  3. In 2010, there was 32 percent of females who are 23 to 64 years old in poverty, and the rate of males was 25 percent. Since the GDP growth was -0.115 percent in 2011 and later it has been recovering in a very slow path, the poverty condition is consistent.
  4. The average wages of Japan in 2016 was around $39,113. This number was far less than the average U.S. wage, which was about $60,154. More importantly, while constant prices increased 1.2 percent from 2015 to 2016, its average wage only increased 0.7 percent. The wage growth rate makes Japanese people barely able to pursue higher standards of life.
  5. At least one in every six children struggle with poverty problems, issues that often inhibit them from accessing higher levels of education. To solve this problem, Japan sets the compulsory education system until the age of 15. In 2013, the Japanese government passed the law to increase the number of social workers in school and increased free, after-school tutors.
  6. The aging population is one of the most severe issues in Japan. In 2016, the Japanese population was around 127 million; however, in the next five decades, the population is likely to shrink by about one-third, and the population of over-64-year-olds may increase from 25 to 38 percent. This dilemma largely decreases Japanese labor force.
  7. The Japanese government announced in 2009 that there were around 16,000 homeless people on the streets. Around 35 percent of this population was about 60 years old, but the number has been dropping since April 2012. For example, the number dropped around 12 percent from 2011 to 2012 due to the support of health and welfare ministry.
  8. The average house price in greater Tokyo increased more than 12 percent from 2014 to 2015; however, the price-to-income ratio in 2016 was 11 percent. This is the first time the ratio has exceeded 10 percent since the 1990 bubble economy. The higher house price puts more people in jeopardy and as a result, more people become homeless.
  9. There is a large income gap in Japan, especially under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies. For example, people who live in Tokyo are gaining benefits an their average taxable income raised near 7 percent through fiscal 2016. However, the income of people who live in Kagawa dropped during the same period.
  10. In Japan, more than 99 percent of businesses are small and middle-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are influential supporters of the Japanese economy. Based on a report in the Economist Intelligence Unit, though, SMEs have been in decline since the 1990 bubble economy, and the decline continued through the 2008 economic crisis as many of them are reliant upon the domestic economy.

The Japanese government currently works to set new policies to promote economic development, and strives to effectively solve issues such as the ones in the top 10 facts about poverty in Japan. 

 – Judy Lu
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in TokyoTokyo is not a city that immediately comes to mind as a poverty-stricken city. Japan currently has the third-largest economy in the world, but despite this had a relative poverty rate of 15.6 percent in 2015, significantly higher than other wealthy countries. This poverty is often hidden, and ignored by both the government and citizens of Japan. Much of this poverty is located in the nation’s capital of Tokyo. Below are 10 facts about poverty in Tokyo.

10 Facts About Poverty in Tokyo

  1. Poverty first began to gain recognition as an issue in Tokyo after the 2008 global financial crisis. During this time, a village was set up in Hibiya Park in Tokyo to provide for the city’s newly poor.
  2. The poverty line in Tokyo is set at half the median household disposable income for a given year.
  3. More than 20 percent of the children in Tokyo live in what the government has defined as an impoverished household.
  4. Ten percent of households in Tokyo are not able to adequately feed themselves because of the level of poverty in which they are living.
  5. Parents in 15 percent of households in Tokyo said they could not afford to buy clothes for their children.
  6. The Japanese government has been working to reduce the rate of homelessness in Tokyo, and in 2014 there were only an estimated 1,697 homeless individuals in Tokyo. This was an all-time low for the city.  
  7. The poverty rate of single-parent families in which the parent is working is more than 50 percent in Tokyo, as well as the rest of Japan.
  8. The economic system in Tokyo puts divorced single mothers at an especially high disadvantage, because many Japanese companies only hire recent college graduates. This places divorced single mothers at a disadvantage because if they left the workforce while married to raise children, as is a common cultural practice in Japan, they will likely not be hired when they attempt to rejoin the workforce.
  9. A community of homeless people lives in Shinjuku Central Park, which is located right next to the City Hall in Tokyo.
  10. The three primary groups that receive welfare payment in Tokyo are the elderly, single mothers and the handicapped.

These 10 facts about poverty in Tokyo only touch on poverty in the city. Though Tokyo is often thought of as a fast-paced, glamorous metropolitan city, the reality is that many living in Tokyo are facing crippling levels of poverty.

The above 10 facts about poverty in Tokyo reveal many of the issues being faced by these citizens. Though poverty may be more severe in Tokyo than many would assume, the recognition of this problem at all offers a glimmer of hope that Japan is on its way to improving the lives of its poorest citizens.

– Nicole Stout
Photo: Flickr

Five Countries That Give the Largest Foreign AidAccording to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) report, in 2016, 30 countries in Development Assistance Committee (DAC) contributed a total of $142.6 billion as financial assistance to poorer countries, with the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and France giving the largest foreign aid.

On average, the United States’ government has given approximately one percent of its federal budget — about $34 billion — each year over the past decade to countries in need of foreign aid.

Out of the aid amounts from all donor countries, U.S. foreign aid ranked at the top of the list. Non-DAC countries, like China, are also responsible for a significant part of the total aid amount.

Each year, developing countries receive aid in tens of billions of dollars from governments in other countries. From obtaining diplomatic approval to business access, this aid can serve various purposes for the donor countries. From agriculture, to education and public health, recipient countries use aid towards a wide variety of issues and projects.

Here is a rundown of the five countries that offered the largest foreign aid and how that aid was spent by its intended nations. Due to the lack of detailed information for 2017 fiscal year, the list will be based on previous-year statistics.

1. China

A surprise to many, the winner on the “aid list” is China rather than the United States. As a non-DAC country, China has not officially disclosed its aid information; however, in a recent publication, researchers from AidData at William & Mary claimed that during the year between 2000 and 2014, China offered $350 billion-worth of aid to 140 countries and territories, sponsoring more than 4000 projects – the largest foreign aid program in the world.

In 2009, China’s total financial commitment to development aid reached a whopping $69.9 billion, two times that of the U.S. foreign aid in the same year.

A large chunk of China’s aid is categorized by AidData as “Other Official Flows,” indicating that though counted as foreign aid, these financial assistances are primarily intended for commercial access rather than for development and welfare.

Top recipients of Chinese aid are largely members of the One Belt One Road Initiative, a program by President Xi that aims to reinforce trading routes across continents.

As a result, almost half of the aid was spent on infrastructure sectors including energy generation and supply, transportation, storage and communication. The spending on agriculture, forestry and fishing only took up 3 percent of the aid.

2. The United States

From 2002, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has gradually boosted the total foreign aid budget to a steady amount that rests around $32 billion. With the Department of State and USAID as the nation’s main donors, the U.S. government distributed — not counting fiscal worth of military assistance — $34 billion official development aid (ODA) to over 100 foreign governments during the 2016 fiscal year.

Such an amount makes the U.S. the largest foreign aid donor among DAC countries.

Israel, Afghanistan and Egypt are the largest recipients of the U.S. foreign aid, receiving $3.10 billion, $1.51 billion and $1.46 billion of assistance, respectively. More than one-third of the U.S. budget is spent on long-term projects that promote economic growth and public health programs.

About 23 percent of such aid is used as humanitarian aid, and aims to fund short-term disaster relief programs.

3. Germany

With a volume of $24.67 billion in 2016, Germany’s foreign aid ranked the second largest in OECD’s report. Compared to 2015, Germany’s aid budget experienced an impressive 36.1 percent increase, making Germany’s ODA to gross national income (GNI) ratio hit the 0.7 percent mark.

An important factor in accounting for this major boost is the wide-ranging social benefits provided to the large influx of refugees.

Starting from 2016, the German government reclassified this in-house spending on refugee assistance as international development aid, aiming to hit United Nations’ 0.7 percent ODA/GNI target.

4. The United Kingdom

Before it was made a legal obligation by the U.N., the U.K. hit the 0.7 percent ODA/GNI mark in 2013 and has since maintained this ratio very well.

In fiscal year 2016, the U.K. spent a total of $18.01 billion in development aid, thus becoming the third largest foreign aid donor among DAC countries.

Pakistan, Ethiopia and Afghanistan each received more than $300 million in U.K. aid, and Nigeria, Syria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Tanzania all received more than $200 million. The aid is largely used for humanitarian programs and other crisis-relief projects in nations close to the European Union.

5. Japan

As the third-largest economy in the world, Japan contributes the fourth-largest ODA among DAC countries. Though Japan ranked high on the list of total aid volume, its $10.37 billion aid in fiscal year 2016 merely took up 0.2 percent of its GNI compared to the United States’ criticized 0.18 percent.

As a close tie to China in overall economy, Japan also engages in competition with China for potential markets in developing countries by giving out development aid. While China desires more of natural resources in recipient countries of its aid, Japan wants cheap land and labor so that it can compete with the world’s leading manufacturing industry in China.

Humanitarian Aid is on the Rise

As OECD’s report indicates, the world’s total development aid is on the rise. This trend is so prominent that DAC Chair Charlotte Petri Gornitzka expressed her delight in the ever-increasing trend and the generous contributions of the largest foreign aid donors.

With an increasing amount of ODA being spent on short-term humanitarian and refugee aid, Gornitzka urged countries to also focus on long-term development programs.

Regardless of the purposes of aids, this healthy trend of increasing aid showcases the collective efforts of the world in reaching the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals

– Chaorong Wang

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