Sixteen percent of Japanese minors live below the poverty line, or about 1 out of every 6 children. Those figures put Japan at No. 10 among the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in terms of the rate of child poverty. And when it comes to the poverty rate of single-parent households, Japan comes out on top — or bottom, depending on how you look at it.

According to Yumiko Watanabe, the head of nonprofit organization Kids' Door, which provides an after-school environment for children whose families cannot afford to send them to cram schools, the situation for children in single-parent homes is getting worse. The current Liberal Democratic Party government retained the monthly child allowance program, which is given to almost every household with children, implemented by the previous ruling Democratic Party of Japan. However, the special jidō fuyō teate, a "child support allowance" designated for the children of single parents, has never kept up with reality. In an interview with the website 8Bit News, Watanabe said that she and other NPOs, as well as a number of well-known scholars, have sent a petition to the LDP asking it to increase the allowance so as to halt the cycle of poverty that many of these families are trapped in.

According to the petitioners, there are 1.24 million single-mother households in Japan and 223,000 headed by single fathers. Of the total, 54 percent have incomes that set them below the poverty line — the highest rate in the developed world.