She is not alone. In Japan, one in three single women who live alone, with and without children, between the ages of 20 and 64 are “poor,” according to a recent study by the National Social Security Institute.
Among single women between 20 and 64, 32 percent are poor, and in those over 64, 52 percent are poor. Fifty-seven percent of single women with children under 19 are living in poverty.
Poverty rates are higher among single women than men — 57 percent of these women are poor compared to 43 percent of men, according to 2007 statistics.
The Institute said, “Japan must urgently work on improving the situation and creating a safety net for these women.”
However, by 2030, one in five women will be single estimated the Institute.
Japan’s total population is projected to decline by 0.5 percent over the next five years through 2015, but its populations of single women 40 and older are projected to increase by 12.3 percent, according to the Nomura Research Institute.
The trend toward marrying later, a rising divorce rate and increased longevity all increase the chances of more women becoming single and poor. In addition, the nation has a stagnated economy, due to being hard-hit by the post-Lehman financial crisis and the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in March, noted Nomura.
Women who live alone are the sole breadwinners in their households and consequently cannot easily stop working, making them susceptible to stress, reported Nomura. If they have children or parents to take care of, they need to accumulate assets to fund living expenses and pay for their children’s education and/or nursing care for their parents.
The Social Security Institute warns that if Japan doesn’t change its tax and social welfare system, which is based on benefits for married couples, there will be higher levels of poverty.
Meanwhile, Shimabata worries about her decreasing chances as she ages of getting married or promoted in Japan’s sluggish economy.