The present situation of Japanese poverty

by Mizuki Watanabe

According to Anne Alison, present-day Japan has a different host of issues. In particular, one of the most serious problems is poverty. Generally speaking, Japan is very developed country and most people imagine that this country is not involved in poverty. However, there are many people who live at a minimum standard of living. Jobs of those people are usually unstable and often are non-regular jobs. Those poor people do not have equal rights and equal status compared to regular workers. That is to say, their fundamental human rights are violated. Nevertheless, little attention has been given to those problems. We are here concerned with two questions, “What are factors of those Japanese problems? Why does Japan not change and cannot solve those problems?”

The first point that we should discuss is a policy of the Japanese government for the economy. Apparently, poverty is related to the economic situation of our country. When the economy has come to a standstill, the Japanese government always establishes a practical policy only for the economy. To put it another way, it usually ignores the others such as the daily lives of nations and so on. Public assistance must be important at this point. If citizen’s lives are not guaranteed, the Japanese economy never recovers.

Unfortunately, nowadays fundamental problems remain unanswered. Actually, there is public assistance such as a livelihood protection system in Japan. However, such a social security does not work enough. According to OECD.stat (date extracted on 30 Sep 2013), Japanese costs for social security are lower than in any other developed country, especially European countries. Moreover, the Japanese government cut the cost of livelihood protection twice.

Some man has a wife and two children who go to an elementary school. Because of the policy, he does not get enough money and has to cut down their cost of foods and they always eat instant food such as “cup ramen”. Nowadays, there are many people in Japan who live in such a terrible situation. What should be remembered is that the most important thing is a nation’s life and their rights. Government should not forget those things and establish a policy for those deep issues.

There is a further problem which needs to be asked. That is the problem of the Japanese sense of entitlement. Historically, a revolution like a French Revolution and the Arab Spring have never happened in Japan. We have not experienced that we get any rights on our own. Also, Japanese are always called “People who do not say their opinions clearly and agree with other’s ideas” by foreign people. Indeed, we have a famous Japanese proverb that is “Deru kui ha utareru”. This means that a person who is different from other people is blamed. When we are child, Japanese have been educated following to this proverb. Because of those factors, we are always afraid of saying our opinions and do not think of what are our rights seriously. Therefore what seems to be lacking is a Japanese sense of entitlement.

As mentioned above, what is important in poverty is social security and sense of entitlement of citizens. Government has to care about citizens and people have to care about their rights and rise up against their dissatisfaction as well. Now, it is the time to improve our society. We have to think those problems deeply.

References

Seikatsuhogo genjo sitte [the present situation of livelihood protection] Asahi news paper digital Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://www.asahi.com/articles/CMTW1405091000001.html

Syakaihosyokyufuhi no kokusaihik haiku(OECD countries 2009)[An international comparison of the cost of social security(OECD countries)] Retrieved September 30, 2013 from http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/honkawa/2798.html

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Privatization and jiko sekinin

by Sayaka Maeda

Anne Allison analyzed the movement toward “individual responsibility” (jiko sekinin) in her book Precarious Japan. She said that the Koizumi administration went ahead with the policy: aligning with big business, privatizing more and more of government services under the banner of jko sekinin, and investing too little in social programs, including welfare, and it lead to falling worker’s wages, and increase of homelessness. She argued that Japan is already exposed to poverty.

I agree jiko sekinin has brought those negative points. Privatization causes cost cuts, and the reduced costs are labor costs. Therefore, the number of the unemployed and non-regular employment increases, or the workers may be fired, and some people lose their home, and become homeless and net café refugees. In addition, compared with state-owned companies, private companies need to seek profit. Therefore, I think there are national companies which should not privatize.

However, privatization has merits. First, it increases efficiency and productivity. In addition, the competition among companies occurs, and service and technology improve. Government’s income also increases.

Although privatization causes a lot of problems, and even if a privatized company benefits, the victims (by personnel cuts) should not exist. I think it is important to have limited government where jiko sekinin is needed, but social welfare should be assured for the right that people can live with security.

Now many of state-run companies were privatized, for example, the post office, JR (the former national railway), and some airports. Allison also talked about the Gold plan, which is the policy in which the government has shifted more responsibility to individuals and introduced measures to restructure care away from doctors and hospitals to more home-based care. These days, it is discussed whether a public nursery school should be privatized or not. By the privatization, they can increase the number of nursery schools, and receive more children, however, it becomes difficult to employ nursery school teachers for a long time.

On April 2014, the government increased the consumption tax from 5 % to 8 % to improve social welfare, for example, medical care and pensions, to address the aging population and declining birthrate. I think we have to watch whether the government properly uses our tax. In precarious Japan, I think the government should take measures as soon as possible.

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Poverty among young women: the trigger to a limited life

by Maya Hattori

In Precarious Japan, Anne Alison refers to the new types of poor people spreading in Japan. She also mentions that little attention is given to the fact that poverty exists in this country right now. I will focus on the lifestyle of the poor young women and their struggle.

The increasing poverty among young women in Japan is a serious problem that is still not recognized widely. One out of three young unmarried women are regarded as being poor, receiving less than 1,140,000 yen a year. However, most of them do not even regard themselves as poor, with the bias of living in a rich country.

First of all, why do young women fall into poverty anyway? There are many cases such as, fleeing from domestic violence, divorce, single parenting, debts or family background. Everyone has the risk to become poor someday.

Once you get poor, you no longer have many choices, which keeps you stuck in an unstable and severe life, like a vicious circle. For example, a woman in her early twenties has a child but no partner and her parents are divorced and not able to help her financially. In order to raise her child she has to earn money immediately, however, she would probably have no choice but to work as a daily employee or engage in night work, because it takes time, money and luck to get a stable job. Indeed, many young women who are in such a situation are indirectly forced to work as prostitutes, where they are provided not only a lot of money but also a day-care center and an apartment. This is more easily done than to ask the government for public assistance or other official help.

Moreover, living in poverty, many young women who are single think they are not able to get married. The idea that women can be feed by their husbands does no longer apply to this era of depression and precariousness. This also leads to the decrease of children. Another vicious circle is that children who were raised by single young women in poverty have difficulties in getting good education, considered financially, so they probably will go through the same difficulties as their mothers.

Living in Japan with minimum wage causes you many other problems as above. Though it may sound a little unequal in terms of gender when I only refer to women, it is true that young single women have a weaker position if they have children and women are more easily allured into “black businesses” because of the payment and other equipment. Therefore, the government should help those young women who suffer from poverty, in order to give them a chance to live a mature life.

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Social Movement Is A Process of Policy-Making in Japan

by Miki Imamura

It is often said that Japan is not the country that there are not so much social movements effecting policy-making process.  I was also thinking so until I knew this movement which happened in Hokkaido. I didn’t know that Japan had been believed as Unitary state till 2008. It was changed by Citizen-turned-politic-activists. In 2008,  “the resolution for assuming Ainu race an aborigine” was adopted in both houses of Representatives and Councilors. (Comprehensive Ainu Policy Office, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of Japan.) This story had begun from two Ainu citizen-turned-politic-activists in 1984.

At first, I would like to briefly introduce Ainu. Ainu is indigenous people who have lived in Hokkaido prefecture. From Edo period, the Japanese central government forced assimilations policy to Ainu people by depriving their land, pushing public education in Japanese. In 1899, “Hokkaido Aborigines Protection Act” was established and Ainu was considered to be “an old aborigine”. After WWII, Ainu had been not recognized as indigenous people by the government so that there weren’t any policies for Ainu. For long time, Ainu also has been suffered discrimination by Japanese even until now. (Hokkaido)

In 1984, there was a plan for constructing a dam in Hokkaido, Nibutani district, where had been considered as “a sacred place” for Ainu. It was the important land for Ainu cultural ceremony of salmon capture. Shigeru Kayano was an Ainu who grew up in Nibutani and speaks Ainu language. He opposed the construction plan and brought a suit to stop the construction for protecting Ainu culture. Social movements had begun not only in Japan, but also at global level. There were demonstrations in Japan done by Ainu and Japanese for the protection of Ainu culture.  At global level, the representative of Ainu made the keynote speech at United Nations General Assembly in 1992 for the “International age of world indigenous people”. In 1994, the Human Rights Commission jurisdiction gave an advice to the Japanese Government about “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”, which has been said that it brought influence for Nibutani dam judgment and the recognition of the Ainu. Under those movements, Kayano became a Japanese Diet member (from 1994 through 1998 a member of the House of Councilors).

In 1997, the suit was basically lost, however the court recognized Ainu for the first time as an aborigine. Kayano continuously worked for the abolishment of “Hokkaido Aborigines Protection Act” and for the approval of “the Ainu Culture Promotion Act”.  After the approval in 1997, he resigned the member of Assembly and made an effort to regenerate the Ainu culture. It can be said that one man who wanted to protect homeland and its culture became citizen-turned-politic-activist and changed the law with the social movements.

Now Ainu recognizes as indigenous people and receives various policies for improvement of living standard of Ainu and for promotion of Ainu culture. There are various social movements by not only government, but also Ainu as well. Ainu has been promoting Ainu culture through education or ceremony domestically, and they have been promoting international conferences such as Indigenous Peoples Summit or World Indigenous Peoples Conference. However, considering “the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” which includes acknowledgment of the rights such as culture, land and resources, Ainu should be treated more properly. In Hokkaido, there is a new wave for that. Ainu party has established in January 2012, the representative is a son of Shigeru Kayano, Shiro Kayano. They will challenge the national election for advocate the right recovery of the Ainu. (Shinbun, 2012) From these facts, it can be said that the one citizen-turned-politic-activist clearly influenced the national policy-making in Japan.

Bibliography

Comprehensive Ainu Policy Office, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of Japan. (n.d.). About the council . Retrieved 11 30, 20121, from Council for Ainu Policy Promotion : http://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/singi/ainusuishin/policy.html

Hokkaido, T. A. (n.d.). 私たちについて. Retrieved 11 30, 2012, from The Ainu Association of Hokkaido : http://www.ainu-assn.or.jp/about03.html

Shinbun, Y. (2012, 11 26). アイヌ民族党が国政選初挑戦北海道9区擁立へ. Retrieved 11 30, 2012, from Yomiuri Online : http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/election/shugiin/2012/news1/20121126-OYT1T00189.htm

貝澤耕一. (2011). Restoration of the Ainu as an indigenous people : building a Japanese society in solidarity with the Ainu. 京都: 法律文化社.

Why does the gap between poor immigrants and rich immigrants exist?

by Ayana Nishizaki

Last week, in my post about ‘International Immigration’, I was wondering why poor immigrants stay poor while the rich get richer. Though my study, the causes are different ones than I expected. There are two main reasons: educational opportunity, and inefficient use of human capitals. I would like to discuss these reasons in terms of ‘illegal Hispanic immigrants’.

Immigrants of America are divided into two groups: legal immigrants who can speak English and illegal immigrants who can’t speak English well. Recently, increasing the number of illegal Hispanic immigrants is one of the big problems. They try to stay longer after the tourist VISA expired because it takes long time and much money to get the right of permanent residence.

The first reason of the gap is their education. According to one reading, Gross Enrollment Ratio of Hispanic is 57while that of American is 80. Most illegal immigrants don’t have enough money to take educational opportunity. Therefore, they have no choice to get low income jobs. On the other hand, educational cost of the high quality school is getting higher. It means only the rich can get high quality education and tend to get high income jobs. Therefore, the gap is still not getting close.

As the second reason, human capitals of immigrants are not used effectively and correctly. Recently, new immigrants are more highly educated than old immigrants because the number of immigrants who graduated from universities is increasing. However, immigrants are still faced with a difficulty to get acceptation of a job they want. The problem comes up when immigrants enter host country and show their qualification and ability to employers. These qualifications that they got in home country are not necessarily useful in host country. Even if these qualifications of home countries are similar to those of host countries, their ability of communication, language knowledge, and adopting culture are different from those of natives. There is a fact that there are many opportunities to get jobs like house keeper and restaurant server. However, when it comes to more high-skill-required jobs such as IT manager, it seems more difficult for immigrants than natives. Therefore, some high educated Hispanic immigrants have no choice to work what they really don’t want because of unpractical use of their ability.

From this study, I realized that the problem of the gap is caused by less education opportunity and inefficient use of human capitals. I though the main reason was merely their poor economic situation. However, even if some immigrants achieved high academic ability, they can’t get jobs they really want. In my view, that point (how difficult it is for immigrants to get acceptation from employer in terms of language skills, ability of adaptation) is one of the barriers when they assimilate. Therefore, as one of the solutions, I think government should clarify what kind of skills and ability in each jobs is exactly necessary in host country and inform immigrants of the clear criteria. By doing so, immigrants can make their life plan (such as which skills is necessary to get in advance) to reach their goal and also employer can easily measure and their ability and communicate with them.

Ethnic and Civic Nationalism in Japan

by Sakiko Maruyama

In the class, we learned there are two nationalisms; one is the ethnic nationalism and another is the civic nationalism.  While the ethnic one pays attention to the roots or ethnicity, the civic one emphasizes the attitude to obey the law. Then, we link the ethnic one with intolerance, while the civic one with tolerance for immigrants. In this way, both nationalisms seem to be opposite, but in fact, they can be seen in the same nation; there are some nations which their nationalisms change depending on the conditions, even if they have strong biases to one side. Japan is one of those countries which close to ethnic nationalism. We tend to regard the Japanese government as intolerance for immigrants and think the citizen is tolerant. But this matter is more complex than we think. We sometimes take more ethnic attitude than the government. I want to describe this situation by comparing the position of us and the government about two problems surrounding Korean school in Japan.

The first problem is about the compulsory education. Korean school isn’t authorized as the school participates in the system of compulsory education. Even though children graduate from Korean school, that doesn’t mean they meet compulsory education. On the other hand, many Japanese universities accept their applications because they have scholastic ability which is worth to take the entrance examination. In this problem, the government seems to be more ethnic and universities take more civic position.

The second one is the discussion about the free tuition of Korean school in Japan. Comparing to the first problem, we can find the government has different opinion about this discussion. The government seems to think seriously about the adoption of free tuition of Korean school, while some local governments obviously against it. The local governments independently focus on the question whether they give a subsidy to Korean school or not, and the local government which decides to cut it off is caused by ethnic reasons. For example, Osaka prefectural government cut it off because Korean school hold portrait of Kim Jong Il. Most of citizens agree with this policy, and free tuition may be out of the question for them. Therefore, in this case, the citizens support ethnic citizenship and the government sees the matter from the civic perspective.

In conclusion, we citizens sometimes take firm ethnic stance. We generally see the policy of the government as important to solve the question of immigrant. But seeing the above two discussion, I think the later problem is more serious. This is because we citizens seem to have a greater influence in this problem.

Citizenship in Japan

by Yuuka Kageyama

What is the meaning of being Japanese or having a citizenship in Japan? The answer can be various, depending on the idea of citizenship and when and where is the citizenship used or considered. Citizenship is usually defined as a form of membership in a community. One of the biggest features of Japan is that many people have same or similar culture, language (Japanese) and race, that is, Japan has less ethnic diversity compared to other countries such as America which has so many kinds of ethnic groups and immigrants. However, with the advance of globalization, Japan came to have various people and culture. In this society, how does the citizenship work especially on the immigrants from other countries or people whose parental origin are different from that of Japanese?  Let’s think about it from three dimension of citizenship.

First, in order to hold the citizenship as legal status, people need to have Japanese mother or father. However, there are many immigrants and people who were born and grown up in Japan but don’t have Japanese parents. Such people cannot be “Japanese” in terms of nationality. They also don’t have Japanese passport.  I met a student whose both parents are American but born and grown up in Japan and even have never been to America. He was educated as Japanese and his way of thinking and behavior is quite Japanese. However he doesn’t have Japanese citizenship in this regards even if he spends his entire life in Japan.

Second, citizenship ensures the right of participation in the community. In a society in Japan people who have right to be Japanese have responsibility to obey the law, which gives the government obligation to protect them at the same time. Moreover, individual needs to be treated equally as human right. Although it sounds natural and easy to implement, the reality is that people are not always equal in some part. For example, people who don’t have Japanese nationality cannot be national civil servant and cannot join the government by voting. It is true that there is a difficulty to give every citizen equally the right to be involved in the national important organizations, however, such people as immigrants should also have chance to reflect their wishes in some ways.

Third, citizenship gives people in a community a sense of belonging. People in a community share their own culture, belief, language and so on, which is closely connected with their identities. Immigrants who don’t share such identity can be ‘other’ in the society. The citizenship in this regard is different from the one which come from legal or political meanings.

Immigrants in Japan have still difficulty to join the society there is a need that Japanese government takes measures including achievement of substantive citizenship or expansion of the criterion to hold citizenship.