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Jobless woman starves to death


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
That's what I call a serious job situation... 😲

A 32-year-old unemployed woman has starved to death at her apartment in western Tokyo, police said Thursday. Another woman believed to be her roommate was hospitalized in a weakened state, but her condition is not life-threatening, according to police. "I've eaten little food since mid-January," the roommate was quoted as telling investigators.

At around 6:30 p.m., an employee of a real estate agent found the woman dead on a futon mat in her apartment in the Showacho district of Akishima and her roommate lying on the floor. The employee visited the woman's room in an apartment complex the agent is commissioned to manage because she had failed to pay rent for several months. Investigators who examined her body have concluded that the woman starved to death around Tuesday. A refrigerator in the room was empty, police said. Tokyo Electric Power Co. suspended its supply of electricity at the end of last month and Tokyo Gas Co. discontinued its gas supply in mid-February after she failed to pay charges over several months.

=> http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/news/20030220p2a00m0dm003000c.html
Definitely. I've watched a few reports on homeless in Japan, most of them would be too much ashamed to ask for help. People tend to turn their backs on them anyhow.

In many Japanese cities charity organizations take over responsibility, a lot of them run by churches.

Japanese in dire straits over joblessness

Hisao Sakane, a burly unemployed construction worker, prowls the streets at night looking for cans. By day, he puts his head on a table and sleeps at Furusato No Ie, a Catholic relief center in this city's notorious Kamagasaki district.

During the boom years, Sakane could sign up for labor gangs to earn a living. But these days, it's hard for anyone to find work in Japan, especially a 50-year-old man like Sakane. "The labor bosses won't hire me because they think I'm too old," said Sakane, a single man who didn't want to talk about his family. "But even young men can't find work these days."

On a good night, Sakane collects enough cans to trade in for about $30, which he spends on food and rice wine. A prized construction job would pay $90 a day. Sakane is one of thousands of Japanese men out of work in the economic stagnation that has afflicted Japan for more than a decade. In a culture where work is the center of social life for men, unemployment hurts deeply.

During the past year, 820,000 Japanese have lost work. The average unemployment rate in the fiscal year that ended in March was 5.2 percent, the highest annual rate ever recorded.

Although official unemployment remains below rates in the United States and Europe, the numbers reflect only about half of Japan's jobless, including many women, who were the first to be dismissed when the economy went sour. Many of them have stopped looking for work, so they drop out of the statistics.

Japan's industrial production fell 10.2 percent in the last fiscal year. And a deep cut in the public-works budget for the current year means far fewer construction jobs to absorb laid-off factory workers, not to mention construction crews and day laborers such as Sakane.

Heinrich Schnusenberg, a Franciscan missionary who founded Furusato No Ie 27 years ago, said his work had changed from counseling day laborers to keeping jobless men out of crisis.

"There used to be a lot of work available here, so we didn't have so many social problems," said Schnusenberg, 67. "The government has to recognize the problem and do more to help, because the situation is getting desperate."

Nowhere is that desperation more evident than in Osaka's Kamagasaki district. Here, amid the stench of poverty, is the nation's largest day-labor market and its most wretched slum, a magnet for Japan's down and out. Such markets once served as buffers for cyclical downturns in Japan's rigidly hierarchical economic system. During bad times, small industrial contractors were the first to lay off workers. Construction projects then hired day laborers from the ranks of displaced workers at the bottom of the heap.

Japan's employment system was supposed to ensure that middle-class workers had job security at large corporations. But the economy stopped growing a decade ago, undermining the system and resulting in corporate layoffs, once unthinkable.

Even professionals in Japan's once-mighty financial industry have been hit hard by the economic stagnation. Many of the people who once toiled for corporate Japan in the belief that it offered lifetime security find themselves adrift. And because corporations were expected to take care of their employees, there was little demand for a public safety net.

In Osaka, population 2.6 million, a class system has evolved. Former salaried workers are setting up tents in Osaka Castle Park, while Kamagasaki attracts discarded factory workers, said Itsuo Matsushige, director of the nonprofit Kamagasaki Relief Organization, which operates the neighborhood's two homeless shelters.

"A lot of the people here are leftover factory workers," Matsushige said. "They've been kicked out of the house or they've cut off ties to family members, so they can't go home."

He cites city statistics placing the total number of homeless in Osaka at 12,000 to 15,000, more than are reported in Tokyo.

On a recent rainy afternoon, thousands jammed the cavernous open-air hall of Kamagasaki's city-run Labor Welfare Center, confronted with a difficult choice. There were two lines: one for a bowl of rice gruel provided by a charity, the other for a coveted mat in one of Matsushige's homeless shelters. There's room for only 800 men, so those who don't want to sleep outside must queue up for hours to get a ticket, forsaking the soup line

Taken from the Seattle Times (05/12/02)
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