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Older single women face growing risk of poverty in Japan

Over 30% of those 65 or older fall below poverty line after death of spouses

Nov 26 (Nikkei) - A growing number of older women in Japan risk falling into poverty after the death of their spouses, or as a result of separation or divorce.

A recent study found that more than 30% of widows aged 65 or older were in poverty in 2018. Older widows often depend on survivor's pensions for income, while fewer now live with their children, who have traditionally provided economic support.

As more women outlive their husbands, the number of older women living alone is rising. Widows and divorced women aged 75 or older are forecast to make up 7.4% of Japan's total population in 2040, up 2 percentage points from 2020.

"I eat only cheap pasta for lunch, as I can spare less than 20,000 yen ($135) for food a month," said a woman in her 70s, who has mostly lived on a survivor annuity after her husband died. "But I have a home and nice, old wardrobe, so I don't look poor. Right?" she added with a wry smile.

The number of widows and divorced women aged 75 or older will reach 8.17 million by 2030, an increase of 1.3 million from a decade earlier, according to an estimate by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (NIPSSR). They will comprise roughly 60% of people in that age bracket, versus 20% for their male counterparts.

Many such women rely on widow's pensions to meet their living expenses, but their monthly incomes often fall below those of welfare recipients. ...continue reading

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