Social Issues

Female job insecurity prompted 2020 Japan suicide boom

Tokyo, Feb 5 (EFE).- The greater economic and employment vulnerability of women in Japan was a major factor in the first suicide death increase in 11 years in 2020, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The economic consequences of the pandemic have greatly affected some industries that have a large presence of women and non-fixed jobs,” such as tourism or the hotelier, said Michiko Ueda, associate professor at Waseda University with extensive studies in suicide prevention and public health.

Suicides in Japan rose 3.7 percent last year, to 20,919 deaths, according to data from the National Police Agency.

Although the deaths of men were the majority, they fell 1 percent (13,943 people); while cases among women increased by 14.5 percent (6,976), the highest figure in the last five years.

In an appearance aimed at addressing the potential factors behind this increase, within the complexity of these deaths, Ueda said that, as in other countries, the pandemic has claimed many jobs with non-permanent contracts, which in Japan are mostly held by women.

With some of the lowest COVID-19 numbers in the world (some 340,000 cases and 6,148 deaths), the pandemic poses a threat to Japan’s recent successes in suicide prevention.

The country maintained a downward trend in suicides in the first half of the year, but as of July they rose and in October there was a very pronounced peak. In that month, suicide deaths among women increased 70 percent.

“What is really important is not only that they are women, but that they are relatively young women under 40,” Ueda said.

According to several national surveys conducted between June and September, more women than men said they had felt a significant negative impact on their working conditions and hours (22.65 percent compared to 17.07 percent). The highest percentage was among women under the age of 40 – 27.71 percent.

According to several Waseda University polls to detect potential symptoms of depression and anxiety, those who said they felt worse were the unemployed or precarious workers.

In addition, “young people showed a greater tendency to have poor mental health, especially anxiety,” the expert explained.

In 2020, Japan recorded a record of suicide deaths among students, 440, the majority of higher education. These deaths also increased significantly in the second half of the year.

The Japanese archipelago has adopted some of the world’s least restrictive measures because of the pandemic, without confinement or mandatory closing of businesses. At the beginning of March, however, the government ordered the temporary closure of the country’s public schools, and minors were locked down at home, in practice.

More than 60 percent of suicides in Japan happen at home, especially when no one is there. “Maybe that could explain why they increased when (the schools) reopened, but this is very speculative,” as there is no direct evidence, Ueda said.

The same is true of domestic violence, for which there is still insufficient data to draw conclusions. EFE


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