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Single mothers double of national average in Okinawa

Date Posted: 2002-03-29

The percentage of single mothers is double the national average in Okinawa a recent survey finds. At the same time, the survey concludes that the number of children single mothers have is the highest in the nation and their income the lowest. The percentage of single mothers is 2.1 percent nationwide, but in Okinawa 4.7 percent of all mothers are single.

The national government has plans to cut the welfare budget for single mothers, and that has alarmed local women’s organizations. Okinawa Single Mothers’ Welfare Union Chairman Masako Shimura is strongly opposing the government’s plans. “Because the number of single mothers in Okinawa is twice as high as in mainland while their income is the lowest, cutting the benefits that are paid to these women’s children would be totally unacceptable. These mother’s could never make a decent living for themselves and their children if the benefits are cut,” Shimura says.

One reason for the high rate of divorces resulting in the large number of single mothers is the high number of international marriages in the prefecture. According to Masayo Hirata, a caseworker at the Okinawa International Welfare Council in Naha City who has worked some 40 years with problems concerning international marriages says that although there were only 239 divorces involving international marriages in 2000, the number is increasing every year.

The number of children single mothers have is also higher in Okinawa. 7.1 percent of single mothers in Okinawa have five or more children whereas mainland Japan has none. In Okinawa 76.9 percent become single mothers because of a divorce while in mainland. 68.3% cite the same reason. Nine percent of single mothers in Okinawa are unmarried while 7.3 percent in mainland never married.

Okinawa Prefecture Mothers’ Union Chairwoman Misae Kamiya says that Okinawa is a special case in Japan. “Okinawa has many international marriages and larger divorce rate than mainland. We must bring these facts to the attention of officials in Tokyo, and strongly oppose any cuts in single mother’s welfare benefits,” Kamiya says.

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