An archipelago consisting of over 14,000 mountainous islands, Japan is prone to various geological phenomena, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. Around 55 volcanoes in Japan are considered active. Japan is home to a declining and rapidly ageing population of 126 million people. Over 90% of people in Japan live in urban areas and less than 10% resides in rural communities. In fact, due to poor infrastructure, roughly 60% of the nation’s land area is designated as “depopulated” and increasingly abandoned by both people and the government.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Japan since the 1980s.
20 million people, almost 16% of the population, live in poverty. Similarly, poverty affects around 1 in 6 under-18s, equating to almost 3 million children. However, child poverty remained unseen and unadressed for a long time. Children born into poverty are more likely to experience a wide range of physical and mental health challenges as well as facing greater social exclusion that further worsens their prospects and facilitates multigenerational poverty.
Japan experiences a low unemployment rate - below 3%. However, young people are twice as likely to face unemployment, affecting almost 5% of 15-24-year-olds. Worse still, many more are disengaged, with 1.5 million not in employment, education, or training (NEET). Young people who are out of work have decreased well-being and greater social isolation. They also lack opportunities to gain and improve their skills, exacerbating employment and socio-economic challenges.
Japan has one of the world's highest suicide rates, which is a leading cause of death for children and young people. In 2020, over 400 school children aged 6-18 died by suicide. Around 1 in 3 cases are due to challenges at home and academic pressure. However, mental health issues are stigmatized, and support systems limited, leaving children and young people feeling isolated, with no one to turn to for support. This may lead to depression, anxiety, and harmful coping strategies such as eating disorders and self-harm.