A survey conducted by the Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions among the part of Japan’s population that receives social welfare support has revealed some concerning issues in these social strata, mainly that the welfare recipients do not participate in either ceremonial functions or local activities – even leisure or recreational – because of either a perceived or very real lack of funds, combined with a feeling of shame with regard to the person’s own social status.
The survey, carried out from February to March this year, included a total of 1,482 individual respondents who were all receiving public welfare assistance from medical institutions and other care facilities. The study covered 44 prefectures nationwide, excluding Iwate, Akita and Tochigi prefectures. From the data gathered, 82.5 percent of respondents indicated that they “never” or “rarely” participated in community events. 69.5 percent of the respondents gave negative responses as to attending ceremonial occasions such as weddings and funerals. To look into real financial numbers, 50.4 percent responded that the amount they spent monthly on recreational or leisure activities totaled between zero and 1,000 yen (approx. 10 US dollars).
According to the organization that initiated the survey, a clear notion of guilt and shame – or a combination of both – is at work in the lives of these welfare recipients. More than 70 percent of the survey participants were over the age of 60, and they responded in the comments section in very negative tones, such as, “I feel inferior to my neighbors” and “I have cut off all relations with others due to financial constraints.” This reveals a sense of isolation that many of these individuals feel. This information can be brought in with the common notions in Japanese society that “social welfare recipients are getting too much money” or “they are not deserving of the payments”. The organizers said that the data is clear that these people, not even meeting the minimum standard of living from a health perspective – are also suffering from “poverty” in social or cultural contact. “Clearly, the poverty of these individuals is not only economic, but also interpersonal,” the organizers said.