A recent UNICEF report on income gaps among households with children in 41 countries belonging to the OECD or the European Union comes as another reminder that children living in poverty is a serious problem in Japan. Unfortunately, this issue tends to get buried in the political agenda as officials, lawmakers and the public focus their attention more on the overall performance of the nation’s economy than on the conditions facing the people at or near the bottom of the economic ladder. Since government efforts to address child poverty have been slow and inadequate, the UNICEF report should serve as a catalyst for prompt and effective actions.
The report ranks Japan 34th out of the 41 countries in terms of the income gap — or the eighth worst among these rich economies. It grades the United States as 30th and South Korea as 15th. That Japan is ranked worse than the U.S. — often cited for the huge gap between its rich and poor — is revealing. This fact alone should prompt government leaders and bureaucrats to get serious about combating child poverty in this country.