Yuichiro, 46, used to be a construction worker in Tokyo. Now he stands in front of a relief site to receive a package of food in the cold weather.
“There are no jobs at all. A lot of people are sleeping at the train station and in cartons. Some are dying of starvation, but the media rarely mentions this,” he said.
The world’s third-largest economy has seen relatively small outbreaks, with a death toll of more than 5,300, and most of the country does not impose a blockade like other countries. With an unemployment rate below 3% and a strong social security network, Japan has the potential to overcome the recession.
However, activists say the most vulnerable are still hit hard, looking at their unemployment rate and wages for temporary jobs.
“The pandemic, rising unemployment and falling wages hit poor workers directly. In the past, few people have come to such relief sites,” said Ren Ohnishi, head of the Center. Support Moyai – an anti-poverty organization.
About 40% of workers are working in temporary jobs with lower wages and can be easily terminated. Many people also struggle to receive benefits. Yuichiro went to many offices to be told that the benefits were only for those with children, but the truth is that many adults do not even have food.
More than 10 million Japanese earn less than $ 19,000 a year and one in six is in the relatively poor group, earning less than half of the middle class. Half a million Japanese have lost their jobs in the past six months and the consequences of the recession are affecting the entire population.
“The middle class is definitely in crisis,” said Kenji Seino, head of the nonprofit relief team Tenohasi.
The Tenohasi group supplied food, clothing, sleeping bags and medical assistance to about 250 people in Tokyo’s busy Ikebukuro district, and offered advice on employment and public services. “People who are already in difficult situations are facing a pandemic now. They are like walking on a rope and that rope just broke,” Seino said.
The economic crisis may have contributed to an increase in suicide rates by the end of 2020. The 1% increase in unemployment could lead to an increase in the number of suicides by 3,000 people a year, experts warn. Mr. Taro Saito from NLI Research Institute.
Women are a particular group of financial difficulties because many work in temporary jobs in heavily affected industries such as retail, restaurants, and hotels. Experts say women are often reluctant to seek help or queue for food, but now they have seen many mothers bring their babies to aid kiosks. Seino says the number of women he has helped is 20% less, but he believes many more have yet to show up. “There are mothers who think their children will feel ashamed of having to live on public welfare,” he said.
Activists acknowledge the scale of poverty in Japan is smaller than in many countries, even among other developed countries. But this does not make sense for people who are struggling to find accommodation. An unnamed construction worker who visits a supply counter in Ikebukuro says his monthly income has dropped below $ 200. His finances are just enough to pay the rent one more time. “I don’t want to go out on the street. It’s so cold that I don’t know what to do now,” he said.
Mai Dung (According to the Japan Times)