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HOME  > Past issues  > 2022 April 27 - May 10  > Public support is needed so that 'young caregivers' won't be left isolated
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2022 April 27 - May 10 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Public support is needed so that 'young caregivers' won't be left isolated

May 8, 2022

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The Welfare Ministry in April published the results of a survey of 11- and 12-year-old children regarding family caregiving. One in about 15 children were found to be looking after one or more family members.

"Young caregivers" are, according to the Carers Japan, children under 18 who take on duties that adults usually handle such as housekeeping, child care/nursing care, and giving emotional support to their family members who need care.

The ministry data show that out of family members in need of care, "siblings" are the most at 71.0% followed by "mother" at 19.8%, and 52.9% of young caregivers take care of their family members "almost every day". Most young caregivers spend on caring between one and two hours on weekdays while 7.1% of children answered that they perform caring tasks for more than seven hours a day during weekdays.

The longer they spend time caregiving, the more they have problems in everyday school life. In addition to arriving late and leaving early from school, many of them "fall asleep during class", "fail to do their homework", or "fall behind in submitting needed documents". The number of such children is double that of children who do not need to take care of their family.

Many children who spend much time on family care have problems such as having to care for sick parents. Economic hardships are especially severe for single-parent households. Children of such family background at high percentages answered that they "do not want to talk about their family" and that they think "nothing will change even if they ask someone for help". They are overloaded with family problems, deepening their sense of isolation.

The issue of young caregivers hardly comes to the surface mainly because people consider the issue just "a family affair". Drastic cutbacks in social security and welfare administration are fueling this tendency, laying all the blame on individual families. The government led by Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and the ruling Liberal Demoratic/Komei parties attach excessive importance to "family units". The government should not push young caregivers to the wall by imposing "self-responsibility" on individual families. The need is for the government to provide necessary support so that struggling young caregivers will not left isolated.
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