Japan’s government to conduct first national survey on child poverty

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The government has started preparations for carrying out in fiscal 2020 a nationwide survey, using unified indicators, to accurately assess child poverty and related issues.

The first national survey focusing on child poverty is aimed at making it easier to conduct comparative analysis among the country’s 47 prefectures.

The Cabinet Office will seek funds for the survey under the government’s fiscal 2020 budget, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The decision comes after the Diet enacted an amendment to the law to combat child poverty in June. The revised law requires municipalities, in addition to prefectural governments, to make efforts to draw up measures to fight child poverty.

The average national poverty rate can be calculated from the results of the internal affairs ministry’s national consumption data and the welfare ministry’s comprehensive survey on living conditions. However, the sample sizes of the surveys are limited and therefore do not allow for detailed, prefecture-level analysis, according to the sources.

More than 30 prefectures conduct their own surveys on child poverty rates and issues related to children’s education, but the surveys use different questions, making prefecture-to-prefecture comparisons and analysis difficult.

The planned fiscal 2020 survey will cover a wide range of issues related to children, such as their diets, education and connections with their local communities, as well as poverty, according to the sources.

The objective data to be collected through the survey will likely enable more precise evaluation of the situation in each prefecture, making it easier for local leaders to push for policies that tackle child poverty, the sources said.

The survey will also employ “deprivation indexes” that directly measure levels of satisfaction in daily life, through questions such as whether a child is eating properly and whether the child owns a bicycle, the sources said.

Deprivation indexes are used mainly in Europe to complement income data for a better understanding of the realities of poverty, the sources said, noting that poverty rates calculated by income data alone often do not correctly reflect people’s situations because they include cases where individuals earn limited incomes but maintain a certain quality of life because of their housing arrangements and savings.