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<<   作成日時 : 2016/05/06 08:46   >>

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--The Asahi Shimbun, May 5
EDITORIAL: Child poverty in Japan must be tackled with utmost urgency
子どもの貧困 学び支え、連鎖断ち切ろう

A report released in April by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) painted a grim picture of child poverty in Japan.
It said children of the poorest households in Japan are much more disadvantaged than their peers in many other industrialized countries.
 最も貧しい家庭の子どもが、他の多くの先進国と比べて、厳しい状況に置かれている――。

The study focused on the disparities between children at the bottom and those in the middle in the wealthiest nations. The inequality gap in Japan was the eighth largest among the 41 countries surveyed.
 4月に公表された国連児童基金(ユニセフ)の報告書は、そんな日本の現状を浮かび上がらせた。最貧困層と標準的な層との格差を国ごとに分析しており、日本の格差は41カ国の中で8番目に大きいという。

Japan also ranked far below the average among industrial nations in terms of the relative poverty rate, or the ratio of people living on less than half the median income. One in six Japanese children was poor by this relative measure, which reflects how far the poorest children have plummeted behind those in the middle tier.
 所得が真ん中の人の半分に満たない人の割合を示す「相対的貧困率」でも、日本の子どもは6人に1人が貧困層にあたり、先進国の中で悪い方だ。

The UNICEF study highlighted the fact that child poverty in Japan is spreading and deepening.
貧しさの広がりに加え、ユニセフの調査でその度合いも深刻であることを指摘されたと言える。

The government needs to tackle this problem with policy support measures targeted at needy households.
 対策としてまず問われるのは、そうした家庭へのサポートだ。

Obviously, effective welfare and other relief for poor families, such as allowances to help cover their daily expenses and steps to help parents get jobs, are vital for tackling this growing problem.
日々の生活を助ける各種の手当や親の就労への支援など、福祉を中心とする施策が重要であることは言うまでもない。

Even more important, however, is support focused on children. The principal challenge facing policymakers and others concerned is how to break the “chain of poverty,” in which children in poor families remain stuck in poverty even after they grow up, causing the cycle to fester for generations.
 それ以上に考えなければならないのは、子どもたちに焦点を当てた支援だ。生活の苦しい家庭で育った子が、大きくなってもその状態から抜け出せず、世代を超えて続いてしまう「貧困の連鎖」をどう断ち切るか。

Education is the key.
 カギとなるのは教育だ。

OPENING UP NEW HORIZONS
 ■教育で広がる将来

A community center in the city of Saitama is on the frontline of the war against poverty among children.
Twice each week, junior high school students in school uniforms or gym clothes converge on the center after 6 p.m.
 さいたま市内のコミュニティセンター。午後6時を回ると制服や体操着姿の中学生が次々とやって来る。

The facility is a venue for a free “learning support class” program, under which university student volunteers help children of financially strained families with their studies.
経済的に厳しい家庭の子どもたちに、学生ボランティアが週2回、勉強を教える無料の「学習支援教室」だ。

An 18-year-old student who has been working as a volunteer at the center since April once received learning support under the program.
 4月からボランティアをしている女子学生(18)は、かつて教室で学んだ一人だ。

“Whenever I came here, I could find someone who was ready to listen to me,” she says. “This place was a source of emotional and spiritual support for me.”
「ここに来ると、いつでも私の話を聞いてくれる人がいる。心のよりどころみたいな場所でした」

The student has been living only with her mother. When she was in her second year at junior high school, her mother, the family’s bread earner, fell ill and had to rely on financial assistance under the government’s livelihood protection program.
 母と2人暮らし。女子学生が中学2年生の時、家計を支えていた母が体を壊し、生活保護を受けるようになった。

“I wondered if I should start working instead of going on to a university. But after a university student volunteer (at the center) clued me in about college life and other things, I grew more ambitious.”
「進学するより働いた方が、と思った時もあった。けれど、大学生のボランティアさんから学生生活のこととか、いろんな話を聞くうちに夢がふくらんで」。

Now, she is learning about welfare, courtesy of a university scholarship.
今は奨学金で大学に通い、福祉の分野を学んでいる。

The program is operated by a nonprofit organization called “Saitama Youth Support Net” on behalf of the municipal government.
Yasushi Aoto, who heads the organization, stresses the importance of learning support to help poor students. “The problem of poverty can never be solved unless children acquire the ability to carve out a better future for themselves,” Aoto says. “Learning support should be at the core of efforts against poverty.”
 市の委託で教室を運営するNPO「さいたまユースサポートネット」の青砥恭(やすし)代表は言う。「子どもたちが自分自身で未来を切り開く力をつけなければ、貧困問題は解決しない。学びは貧困対策の核です」

The welfare ministry placed much importance on learning support as a key element of policy efforts introduced in April last year to tackle the problem of child poverty under a program to help the needy become financially independent. The ministry has urged local governments to take steps to expand learning support for children of needy families.
 昨年4月に始まった生活困窮者自立支援制度で、厚生労働省は学習支援事業を貧困対策の柱の一つと位置づけ、自治体に実施を促している。

Since this is a program based on voluntary policy initiatives, however, as many as 45 percent of the local governments have no plan to implement specific measures, according to a survey by Aoto’s group.
しかし任意事業のため、青砥さんのNPOの調査では「実施予定なし」の自治体が45%もある。

SURVEYS ONLY WAY TO GRASP THE REALITY
 ■地域の実態調査を

One potentially effective way to accelerate policy efforts to reduce poverty is to make the problem more clearly “visible” to the public.
 こうした取り組みをどう加速させるか。ヒントになりそうなのが、貧困の「見える化」だ。

Earlier this year, Okinawa became the first prefecture to announce its own estimate of its child poverty rate. According to a survey commissioned by the prefectural government, 29.9 percent of children in the prefecture live under the poverty line, a figure that is 80 percent higher than the national average.
 沖縄県は今年、都道府県で初めて独自に子どもの貧困率を29・9%と推計し、公表した。全国の1・8倍という高さだ。

“It's impossible to come up with the appropriate measures unless we grasp the severity of the situation concerning poverty among children in Okinawa,” said Kenta Kishaba, who heads the section for child policy.
 「沖縄の子どもの状況がどれだけ厳しいか。それを把握しないと必要な対策も見えてこない」(喜舎場〈きしゃば〉健太・県子ども未来政策室長)。

Prefectural authorities had to persuade many initially unwilling municipal governments to cooperate in the endeavor.
渋る市町村を説得し、協力を仰いだ。

The survey’s findings showed that the existing systems to support needy families are not working.
Nearly half of families living under the poverty line didn’t use the local government’s program to subsidize the costs of learning materials used at schools, for instance. Nearly 20 percent of these families didn’t even know about the program.
 学校で必要な教材の費用などを援助する就学援助を貧困家庭の半分近くが利用しておらず、制度を知らない人も2割近い。同時に行ったアンケートからは、既存の支援制度が十分に機能していない実態もわかった。

The prefectural government has drawn up a six-year plan to address the problem by setting 34 numerical targets, including reducing the number of needy families that don’t know the subsidy program to zero and ensuring that all municipalities operate learning support classes. It established a 3 billion yen ($28.3 million) fund to achieve those targets.
 県は「就学援助を知らない貧困世帯ゼロ」「学習支援教室を全市町村に拡大」など34の数値目標を含む6カ年計画を作り、30億円の対策基金を設けた。

Ai Tatsuno, who heads the nonprofit corporation that carried out the survey on behalf of the prefectural government, said the local governments took steps to solve the problem after facing the reality (grasped by the survey).
“Understanding the reality is vital also for evaluating the effectiveness of policy measures,” Tatsuno added.
調査を担当した一般社団法人「沖縄県子ども総合研究所」の龍野愛所長は「現実を突きつけられたから政策が動いた。実態把握は、政策の効果を検証する上でも欠かせない」と強調する。

Osaka City also plans to conduct a similar survey of elementary and junior high school students within this fiscal year. Grasping the situation in each area will provide strong impetus to policy efforts to tackle the problem. Other local governments should follow suit, and swiftly.
 大阪市も今年度、小・中学生らを対象に調査を予定する。地域ごとに実態をつかむことが、対策を前進させる大きな力になる。取り組みを急ぎたい。

UP TO SOCIETY TO CONFRONT THE CHALLENGE
 ■社会全体で向き合う

The central government’s policy guidelines for addressing the problem were endorsed by the Cabinet after the law to deal with child poverty came into effect in 2014. They call for effective measures to create the right surroundings and ensure equal opportunities for education so that the future of children will not be affected by the environment in which they grow up.
 「子どもの将来が生まれ育った環境によって左右されることのないよう、必要な環境整備と教育の機会均等を図る」。2014年に施行された子どもの貧困対策法を受け、政府が閣議決定した大綱がうたう理念だ。

But these words should be matched with specific policy actions. The government needs to enhance its policy responses, mainly in the areas of social security and education.
 言葉だけで終わらせてはならない。社会保障と教育を両輪に、対策を充実させたい。

In particular, Japan’s public spending on education in terms of its ratio to the size of its economy is among the lowest in the developed world. The government should drastically increase its education budget.
とりわけ教育分野では、経済規模と比べた公的支出が先進諸国の中で最低水準にとどまる。予算を思い切って増やすべきだ。

A lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party recently made disheartening remarks about the proposal to expand scholarships.
“The government should be firmly committed to compulsory education, but students at high schools and universities should work on their own,” the lawmaker said.
 「義務教育は国がしっかりやるが、高校や大学は自立してがんばってもらわないと」。自民党の国会議員が奨学金制度の拡充をめぐって最近、こんな趣旨の発言をした。

This comment echoes a widespread view. But it is high time Japanese society stopped being wedded to this kind of simplistic and outdated thinking based on the principle of personal responsibility.
今も根強い主張だが、そうした単純な「自己責任論」から卒業する時だ。

Children will become the backbone of society. Supporting their healthy development is an investment in the future.
 子どもたちは社会の担い手になっていく。その健やかな育ちを後押しすることは、「未来への投資」にほかならない。

Society at all levels must reach out to support its children. There needs to be broad social consensus on the merits of this principle and what it will entail.
 社会全体で子どもを支える。その合意と負担に向き合う覚悟が問われている。

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気に入ったアイテムがございましたら、クリックをお願いいたします。
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