Alana Semuels is senior economics correspondent at Time Magazine. She was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic and a staff writer and national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. She has a masters degree from The London School of Economics and a bachelors degree from Harvard College.
Japan's birth rate is falling, and the government wants to encourage more people to have children. But unlike many other industrialized nations, Japanese women are not having children alone. Japan's birth rate outside marriage is 2 percent, compared to 66 percent in Iceland. Women who do end up raising children alone in Japan often struggle. Child support is rare, and the government has in the past decade been cutting back on aid to single mothers. Though many single mothers are in the workplace, they are often stuck in low-paid, temporary jobs, and don't make enough money to raise their children outside the confines of poverty. Japan's child poverty rate is one of the highest in the developed world. I would like to explore the plight of single mothers in Japan. I want to interview them about their financial situations, about how they ended up as single mothers, and what the government does to help them. I'd be especially interested in how the government can improve its policies to better support single mothers. I'd like to contrast single mothers in Japan with those in Sweden, which has a high rate of births to single mothers, flexible workplace policies, and a relatively low child poverty rate. How societies treat single mothers and their children is a litmus test for how they treat their neediest residents, and I would like to explore the larger consequences of having a large or a small safety net on the general society.