Homelessness and Poverty in Japan


Many think of Japanese and German societies as well functioning efficient systems with little to no major social unrest.  That is also the issue with making broad social generalizations without digging behind the scenes.  Japan has issues with slum districts in some of its largest cities.  There are places where those with little or no means can stay for cheap or even free.  Think homeless, those just out of prison or struggling to make ends for rent or food.  In earlier days, these were spots where mostly men would stay while also doing day labor.  In Osaka, a place called  Kamagasaki, 25,000 people live with 1 out of 3 either being homeless or on welfare.  Many stay at the cheap dorms that cost from $5-$10 a night.  The day labor dried up when the economy went through tough times in the mid to late 1990s.  That meant that homelessness also increased.

Homeless Self-Reliance Support Law

Much to the credit of the Japanese government, a law passed in the early 200’s has allowed rough sleeping homelessness to decrease.

Japan’s official homeless population has declined from 25,296 in 2003 to 7,508 in 2014. This improvement is partly due to the passing of the 2002 Homeless Self-Reliance Support Law, which had a 10-year limit but was extended for five more years in 2012.

This has allowed many homeless to get off the street. Under this law national and local governments have shared the cost of constructing a network of municipal homeless shelters designed to get people off the street and help them to get back in employment and housing.  However; it should be noted that many believe that the numbers being reported are not correct and may only report rough sleepers.  Some think the numbers are as high as 50,000. 

Getting to a Cause

One of the most important things for the Japanese Government to do is get to the root cause of why those in homelessness have fallen to that postion.  A survey showed that:

Reasons for homelessness include: 1) lack of employment (27 percent); 2) lay offs due to restructuring (13 percent); 3) lay offs due to due to age (10 percent); 4) job loss due to injury (7 percent); 5) failure in changing jobs (9 percent); 6) personal problems (7 percent); 7) job loss due to employer’s bankruptcy (5 percent); 7) other reason (22 percent).-Source-




Many of the reasons for homelessness in Japan seem to revolve around job displacement and or lack of skills in an increasingly global high tech world.  It will be important for the Japanese government to focus on bringing equity to this population in order to solve their homelessness problem.


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