The poverty rate rose to a record 16 percent in 2009 and the number of welfare recipients reached an all-time high of 2.09 million this January, according to the government. But what is even more shocking is the finding a recent study that about 1 in 3 women in Japan aged between 20 and 64 who live alone are living in poverty.

"People need to recognize that it's a serious issue and acknowledge that without measures to tackle poverty, especially for the working poor, there is no future for Japan," Aya Abe, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (NIPSSR), told The Japan Times recently.

Abe, who has been researching the subject for 15 years, said poverty is especially affecting women living on their own, mostly because of the large number who are nonregular workers and the wage gap between women and men, which has been narrowing but remains a problem.