Justin McCurry reports for us from Tokyo on the women of Japan suffering isolation and despair amid Covid job losses:
By the end of the year, more than 80,000 people in Japan had been laid off as a result of the pandemic, almost half of them employed in casual work.
Business closures hit women particularly hard. Although the number of women in the workforce has risen sharply in recent years, many work in dining, entertainment, retail, hospitality and other low-paid, non-regular jobs that now comprise about 40% of Japan’s labour market.
“Women are overrepresented in non-regular employment, where there is little job security, and after the schools were closed families had to scramble to secure childcare, which usually meant working mothers staying home,” said Machiko Osawa, an economics professor at Japan Women’s University in Tokyo.
About 60% of single-parent households reported worsening living circumstances in a November survey by the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training, with more than a third saying they could not afford to buy enough food.
Mounting job losses fuelled demand for food banks, prompting the government to release stockpiled rice to charities for the first time last month, while utilities have reported a surge in requests for deferments to bill payments.
“Many of them have lost their jobs and are struggling to provide for their children and pay their rent,” said Chieko Akaishi, head of the nonprofit Single Mothers Forum, whose organisation sends food parcels to more than 2,000 low-income households every month.
“This has been going on for a year now, and it’s taking a huge toll. I’ve heard the words, ‘I’m tired’, and ‘I can’t go on,’ so many times. It’s become a matter of survival.”
Read more of Justin McCurry’s report here: ‘I can’t go on’: women in Japan suffer isolation and despair amid Covid job losses