Only two political parties this election are pledging to take full action on child poverty, according to a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization.
Global child support group Ashinaga Ikueikai said a survey of party platforms found that only the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party have plans to address all aspects of the problem.
In 2012, roughly one in six children in Japan, or 16 percent, was judged to be living in poverty — the most on record.
The organization identified 22 factors behind the problem and asked the parties what they plan to do in each area. These include making student loans interest-free, supporting academic progress by setting up a study support system, and increasing the child allowance paid to parents.
Eight parties replied to the questionnaire, with two pledging action on all points and the others promising to address six or more. The results were released Sunday.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party said it is still examining — but has not begun tackling — issues such as reducing the burden of medical expenses, and extending the age limit for the orphans’ allowance and parents’ child rearing annuity from the current 18 years old to 20.
Some analysts called the survey helpful in understanding where the parties stand, but it is critical for policymakers to do more to understand the problem.
“The results don’t tell us what the politicians are doing to listen to the voices of the children. What is more important is for them to go out and talk to the children and those who are close to them, such as staff at after-school facilities,” said Akemi Morita, dean of the sociology department at Toyo University in Tokyo.
She said when it comes to tackling poverty, there should be an “in-depth investigation of poverty in each household” to inform the changes needed.
“The whole picture of poverty cannot be judged from merely talking to the parents or teachers. If children are not getting enough to eat, they won’t say that when the parents or teachers are around,” he said.
“It’s important to be sensitive and to try to hear the child’s unspoken voice.”
The eight parties that replied to the questionnaire were the LDP, Komeito, the Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations), Japan Communist Party, Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party), and the Social Democratic Party.
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