In June, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare revealed that the relative poverty rate — the percentage of persons in households with an annual income below 50 percent of the national median — in 2015 stood at 15.6 percent.
The figure represents a drop of one half of a percentage point from 2012, the last time data was collected. However, it is still high. According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average relative poverty rate was at 11.4 percent.
In examining the situation, weekly tabloid Spa! (Aug. 15-22) includes a special feature that compares poverty in Tokyo with non-metropolitan areas. In one example, the tabloid speaks with a 25-year-old woman who wound up in the fuzoku (commercial sex) trade to cover a significant debt.
Raised in Shizuoka Prefecure in a fatherless household, Yumi Tsuchimoto (a pseudonym) took out the equivalent of a student loan for 4.4 million yen to come to Tokyo to attend Komazawa University. “I had this strong feeling that I would go to Tokyo for school,” she tells the magazine. “I thought I would pay back the debt after graduation.”
Tsuchimoto, now 25, realized that she would need to pay 26,000 yen per month over a 20-year period to repay the loan. “I was astonished,” she tells the magazine. “I thought I couldn’t get married. I had this idea that I would engage in job-hunting activities, but it is not as if a graduate from Komazawa University can earn a high salary. So I concluded the fuzoku trade was my only option.”
According to the magazine, Tsuchimoto’s case is not unusual; there is a growing number of young people who come to Tokyo for school who find themselves burdened by debt following graduation.
Tsuchimoto wound up doubling up: She partnered a full-time gig at a web marketing company with part-time employment at a so-called “delivery health” establishment on her off days. Over three years, she earned between 50,000 and 100,000 yen at the delivery health outlet — all she could muster given that her off days at the web company were not easily predicable.
Through this, she was able to supplement her 2.8 million yen annual salary at the web company with 1 million yen from the delivery health outlet. “I covered the student loan repayment each month,” Tsuchimoto says. “But I still had 3.5 million yen left to pay back.”
To compensate, she cut back on outlays for lunch and clothing. “Sometimes, you do not know what you are living for because of the debt burden,” she says.
Source: “Tokyo vs jikata hinkon no riaru,” Spa! (Aug. 15-22, page 41)