Pandemic highlights hidden poverty in wealthy Japan

Pandemic highlights hidden poverty in wealthy Japan

Yuichiro welled up as he collected a food parcel at a Tokyo outreach event offering help to the growing number of Japanese pushed into poverty by the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is no work. Absolutely none,” said the 46-year-old, until recently a construction worker, while clutching a small plastic bag of essentials on a cold winter street in the capital. “This doesn’t get reported much in the media, but many people are sleeping at train stations and in cardboard boxes. Some are dying of hunger.”

The world’s third-largest economy has seen a relatively small coronavirus outbreak so far, with a four-figure death toll and largely without the drastic lockdowns seen in other countries.

With an unemployment rate below 3% and a reputation for a strong social safety net, Japan also appears well placed to weather the pandemic’s economic fallout.