Time and Economic Autonomy of Lone Mothers in Japan: Presentation at the 16th BIEN Congress

published: 2017-08-01 Japanese:日本語版へ

A lot of lone mothers in Japan are harassed by the high cost of living in spite of their high employment rate. This has been discussed in relation to a dysfunctional social security system by many previous studies. On the other hand, some studies discuss single-female-parent households from the viewpoint of difficult cases including domestic violence and child abuse. Many of these researches examine lone mothers exclusively from the specific viewpoint of workers or roles as mothers. Therefore, it is hoped that future research will clarify the autonomy of lone mothers as an individual and its multi-layered social determinants.

As a preparatory analysis for tackling such research we have been focusing not only on economic/time autonomy but also social connection of people (what is called social capital) which is the background aspect of those autonomy, and have been conducting interview surveys of lone mothers. In the surveys we have examined living standards including earned income, the defree of general trust, money/goods provided by the surrounding people, and support concerning care. We have also asked about their time autonomy (their activities both of weekdays and holiday(s), and time control in paid work and care), freedom to appeal for their requests to the government as the party of child-rearing, and self-esteem or self-affirmation.

I and Kaori KATADA, who is associate professor of Hosei University and also one of my research colleagues, gave interim report about our research at 16th BIEN (Basic Income Earth Network) Congress which was held at Sogang University in Seoul, Korea from July 7 through July 9, 2016.

Logo of the 16th BIEN Congress[br] [link=http://bien2016.org/en/]http://bien2016.org/en/[/link] (Last Access: June 19, 2017)

Group Photo of Participants of the 16th BIEN Congress[br] [link=http://bien2016.org/en/]http://bien2016.org/en/[/link](Last Access: June 19, 2017)The BIEN Congress is not only an interdisciplinary academic place concerning basic income but also open to practical persons who are not limited to researchers in a narrow sense. It was the first time for BIEN Congress to be held in Asia this time (in Seoul) and many researchers/practical persons from Japan, in addition to participants from Korea, gathered for the Congress. The Congress was large-scale—consisting of 7 plenary sessions and 32 concurrent sessions and its contents range from artificial intelligence to grassroots feminist movement. So far, the BIEN Congress has been held every two years. After this Congress, however, it has been decided that the BIEN Congress will be held every year.

Let me explain some of our main research results we presented at the BIEN Congress. Firstly, it has been clarified that although the decent income level of lone mothers which includes earned income and surviving family pension is not regarded as that of poor classes, their actual economic condition which deduct expenditure, taxes, social security premium, life premium, etc. corresponds to low-income classes. Secondly, it has been confirmed that time autonomy of lone mothers is impeded by aspects including unsympathetic workplaces, poor relationship with parents, and Parent-Teacher-Association (PTA) activities. Particularly, it has been clarified that lone mothers have not had enough time with their child(ren) and for themselves. Based on such actual conditions we discussed possibility and limitation of basic income which enable us to improve economic living standards, and exit from undesired human relationship. To be more concrete, we discussed (1) whether it is possible to secure enough level of basic income financially, and (2) the difficulty of changing the norms of gender.

I will continue to conduct this survey after increasing the number of survey subjects and reexamining the contents of questions. I aim to conduct research which becomes the basis for examining/suggesting effective social supports concerning lone mothers from now on, too.

In the end, this research achievement was financially supported by the research fund "international research activities," a support system for enhancing the research quality of young researchers of the Research Center for Ars Vivendi in the academic year 2016. Also, this is also a part of research achievements of the public research project commissioned by Zenrosai Kyokai (the Society for National Federation of Workers and Consumers Insurance Cooperatives) in the fiscal year 2014 whose title was "Examination of Multilayered Determinants over Difficulties of Child-raising of Lone Mothers." I would like to thank all members of the project, "International Study on Labour Issues, Unstable Living and Guaranteed Income."


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