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1/2 of one-parent families in Japan see income drop amid pandemic: NPO survey

This photo provided by the Single Mothers Forum shows rice sent to members in March 2020 to buttress family budgets during the closure of schools due to the new coronavirus.

TOKYO -- More than half of one-parent families in Japan reported a decline in household income amid measures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the results of a survey conducted in early April by a single parent support organization.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said their family income had fallen, as against 40% who reported no change. Seven percent said they had lost their income entirely. The results furthermore revealed that these families were not only being hit by reduced work hours, but expanding food and energy costs due to having their children at home during ongoing school closures.

The online survey was conducted by the Single Mothers Forum, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization, on April 2 to 5. It was targeted at their members, and collected 205 valid answers. Of these respondents, just 29% were permanently employed, while 40% had part-time jobs and 13% were temps or dispatch workers.

Among desired government responses to the novel coronavirus financial crunch, 79% of respondents to a multiple-choice question that they wanted immediate cash disbursements, while about 40% favored aid for using babysitter services, and also increasing places where children can spend time safely.

A mother of two who is working in the hotel industry in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido replied that her "income decreased as working hours were reduced. I'm asking my children to do without necessities for the new school year." Among other responses were, "We don't have a balanced diet as we mostly eat rice to feel full," "I can't pay the rent for our apartment because expenses are going up," and, "Though I'd like to stay home for my children, it's not easy to take time off from work if I want to keep my job."

Chieko Akaishi, the group's chief director, said, "Many single mothers live in hard situations even in normal times. In addition to rising expenses and falling income, problems regarding finding places where children can stay or be cared for weigh heavily on them. We need support measures that do not leave the weak behind."

(Japanese original by Eri Misono, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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