Protecting Socially Vulnerable People in Japan, the World’s Most Aged Society: Focusing on Multi-Generational Co-Residence

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 11:24
Oral Presentation
Sawako SHIRAHASE, University of Tokyo, Japan
Japan is the world’s most aged society. According to the 2016 report of the Statistics Bureau of Japan, people aged 65 and over make up 27.3 percent of Japan’s population. The generational gap between the working-age population and the old-age retired population has been expanding rapidly. In particular, the number of those who have never been married has increased. Consequently, the number of those who have not formed a family has grown. However, the family has traditionally provided basic livelihood security to the people of Japan. In this study, I discuss how to reposition intergenerational relations, which have formed the basis of various social systems in Japan.

The data I will analyze for this study are from the Comprehensive Survey of People’s Living for Japan. I will occasionally present comparative figures from those of the Luxemburg Income Study in the early 2010s.

According to our preliminary analyses of the Japanese data, we discovered that co-residency has had more impact on poverty prevention than that of social security benefits. The observed poverty rate for three-generation families containing elderly members whose children act as the head of household is 12.0 percent. However, supposing the elderly do not live with a younger generation of family, the hypothetical poverty rate is 67.5 percent. Similarly, supposing that there are no social security benefits paid, the corresponding figure became 14.0 percent.

Thus, we have confirmed the significance of intergenerational co-residence with regard to the prevention of economic hardship for the elderly. Similar situations can be found in single-mother families and with single-adult children. We argue that there is an urgent need to re-design the social system so that basic livelihood security can be guaranteed for all. This can be accomplished by transforming the basic framework of intergenerational relations in Japan.