うなぎと貧困 Eel and poverty

今日[きょう]、土用[どよう]の丑[うし]の日[ひ]に関[かん]する悲[かな]しく、少[すこ]しびっくりするニュースを読[よ]みました。I read sad and surprising news related to doyo no ushi no hi today.

ニュースは、昨日[きのう]のどろぼうのニュースです。無職[むしょく](= unemployed)の40歳[さい][だい]の女性[じょせい]が昨日[きのう]、うな重[じゅう](unaju, an eel dish)を盗[ぬす]もうとした(= tried to steal)そうです。彼女[かのじょ]は「土用[どよう]の丑[うし]の日[ひ]にうなぎが食[た]べたかった」と言[い]っているそうです。無職[むしょく]、ということですから、うな重[じゅう]を買[か]うお金[かね]がなかったのでしょう。

彼女[かのじょ]が盗[ぬす]もうとしたうな重[じゅう]は2246円[えん](30NZドルくらい)でした。土用[どよう]の丑[うし]の日[ひ]にうなぎを食[た]べるのは日本[にほん]の文化[ぶんか]習慣[しゅうかん](= custom)です。しかし、うなぎの料理[りょうり]は高[たか]いので、みんなが食[た]べられるわけではありません。

このニュースを読[よ]んで、私[わたし]は悲[かな]しくなりました。食[た]べたくて、でもお金[かね]がないから食[た]べ物[もく]を盗[ぬす]む、というのは悲[かな]しいと思[おも]いました。これは貧困[ひんこん]問題[もんだい](= poverty issues)と関係[かんけい]があるかもしれない、と思[おも]いました。

貧困[ひんこん]は、今[いま]、日本[にほん]の大[おお]きな社会[しゃかい]問題[もんだい]の1つです。以前[いぜん][よ]んだ本[ほん]に、1人暮[ぐ]らしの女性[じょせい](20-64歳[さい])の1/3が貧困[ひんこん]だと書[か]いてありました(2007年[ねん]のデータによるようです)。この「貧困[ひんこん]」とは、収入[しゅうにゅう](= income)の中央値[ちゅうおうち](= median)の半分[はんぶん]以下[いか](= less than a half)の収入[しゅうにゅう]、という意味[いみ]です。例[たと]えば、5年[ねん][まえ]、日本[にほん]の年収[ねんしゅう] (= annual income)の中央値[ちゅうおうち] は224万円(26,000NZドルくらい)でした。ですから、貧困[ひんこん]は、その半分[はんぶん]の112万円(13,000NZドルくらい)以下[いか]の収入[しゅうにゅう]、ということになります。13,000ドルはたくさんだ!と思[おも]うかもしれません。でも、税金[ぜいきん] (= tax)、年金[ねんきん] (= pension fees)、国民健康保険[こくみんけんこうほけん] (= national health insurance)(これらは全部[ぜんぶ]義務[ぎむ] (= obligatory)です)、そして、高[たか]い家賃[やちん] (= rent)を払[はら]ったら、残[のこ]りのお金[かね]はとても少[すく]なくなります。

また、今日[きょう]の朝日[あさひ]新聞[しんぶん]社説[しゃせつ](= newspaper editorial column)には、日本[にほん]の子[こ]どもの貧困[ひんこん]について書[か]いてありました。日本[にほん]の子[こ]どもの1/6は、貧困[ひんこん]家庭[かてい]に暮[く]らしているそうです(2012年のデータ)。この子どもの貧困[ひんこん]は、毎年[まいとし][わる]くなっているそうです。



The news is about theft that somebody tried to steal a dish of unaju (an eel dish, which has grilled eel with rice) from a local shop yesterday. The thief is an unemployed woman in her 40s and admitted that she tried to steal it. She said she wanted to eat unaju on doyo no ushi no hi. I assume she did not have money to buy it as it is reported that she is unemployed.

The one she tried to steal was at 2,246 yen (about 30 NZ dollars). Good eel dishes nowadays are quite expensive and are not affordable for everybody. So I have to say there are quite a few people who cannot eat eel dishes although eating eel on doyo no ushi no hi is a sort of cultural ritual.  

I thought this news is quite sad as somebody was urged to steal food. I do not know anything about the woman’s background but this news reminded me of “hinkon” issues.

Hinkon is one of the biggest social issues in Japan now; “hin” means poor and “kon” means suffer in this context. I read a book reporting that one third of single woman households (between 20 – 64 years) is at hinkon level in Japan (this report seems to be made out of the date collected in 2007). The definition of “hinkon” here is that a household income is less than a half of the median salary. For example, the median annual salary in Japan was 2,240,000 (around 26,000 NZ dollars) five years ago; so at the time people who have less than 1,120,000 yen (about 13,000 NZ dollars) annually are defined as “hinkon” here. You might think this figure (13,000 NZ dollars p.a.) is a lot, not on a poverty line, but when you think of what those Japanese people have to pay, such as various taxes, pension fees, national health insurance fees (all of them are obligatory) and notoriously expensive rent, not much money is left afterward. I also read an editorial column in Asahi Shimbun Newspaper today about child poverty. According to the data as of 2012, one sixth of children in Japan lives in “hinkon” households. And the situations have steadily got worse year by year.

I wrote about "hinkon" issues in Japan before. This issue is not just for Japan; New Zealand faces similar sorts of problems. We should perhaps think and work together beyond the borders…

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