Survey says 250,000 Japanese engaged in ‘double care’ of children, adult family members

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An estimated 253,000 people are currently shouldering the double burden of raising children while also caring for sick or elderly family members, a recent survey by the Cabinet Office has found.

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By gender, women were found to be much more likely to undertake what in Japan is widely called “double care,” numbering 168,000, as opposed to 85,000 men.

About 80 percent of those engaging in double care are in their 30s and 40s, highlighting the need for more public support for those who are supposed to be in the prime of life.

The Cabinet Office released its first-ever report on double care on April 28, as it looks for ways to keep more people in the workforce, as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy to “make everyone shine.” It used two government statistics — on employment and people’s lifestyles — from 2012 and 2013, finding that 2.5 percent of the nation’s 10 million people who are raising children, and 4.5 percent of the 5.57 million people who are caring for sick or aging relatives, are doing both. The average age of such care bearers was 39.7, with 80 percent of them in their 30s and 40s, the survey showed.

The government also conducted a more detailed survey online in which 1,004 people sandwiched between parenting and caring for kin responded. More than 90 percent of the respondents were married. Of the 1,004, men accounted for 55.5 percent.

Many replied that the double duty took a toll on their careers, forcing them to switch to less-demanding, less time-consuming and presumably lower-paying jobs. The percentage of men who used to be employed full time before starting double care was 75 percent, while the percentage of women in full-time jobs was 36 percent. After double care began, the percentages dropped to 65.7 percent for men and 23.7 percent for women. Meanwhile the ranks of part-timers and the unemployed swelled, the survey shows.

The 140-page report shows that people doing double care cited their inability to check in sick or aging family members to hospitals or nursing homes as the number one reason for cutting back on their paid work. Difficulty balancing personal needs and work, and a lack of support from other family members were also cited.

The report concludes that more detailed research is needed, acknowledging its failure to examine regional differences and comparisons of people doing double care with those engaged just in child-rearing or caring for older relatives.

“The issues and challenges surrounding double care are closely connected to bigger social issues and policy concerns,” the report states. “We need to implement policies related to child-rearing and nursing care, and provide wide-ranging assistance on the ground level, coordinating with private-sector businesses and NPOs.”

© 2016 THE JAPAN TIMES (TOKYO) / DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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