Ministries to support growing number of young carers in Japan


The Department of Social Care will support children caring for younger siblings or providing nursing care to family members, after a government survey found an alarming rise in the number of such ‘young carers’.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced the results of their joint internet survey in April of last year, finding that about one in 17 second-year undergraduates was young. caregivers.

Although there is no legal definition of a “young carer”, the term generally refers to a child under the age of 18 who is caring for a family member for reasons such as illness, disability or advanced age. There are concerns that the requirements placed on helping students could have negative effects on education.

The survey, the first of its kind, focused on sophomores in public middle and high schools across the country between December 2020 and February 2021. Responses were received from 5,558 high school students and 7,407 high school students.

Among lower secondary students, 319, or 5.7%, said they cared for a family member. About 10% of the 319 students spent more than seven hours a weekday caring for someone. Upper secondary respondents included 307 carers, which represents 4.1% of the total.

Alarmed by the results of the survey, the Department of Social Affairs has decided to launch a program in fiscal year 2022 to send helpers to families with young carers.

As part of this program, which will start initially in 50 municipalities chosen from among the applicants, seconded assistants will support the helping pupils not only by giving them advice but also by carrying out household chores, in particular by taking the young brothers and sisters in kindergarten. The program will also cover families with concerns about parenthood.

Local governments are also starting to support young carers. In March 2020, the Saitama Prefectural Government passed the country’s first local government ordinance to support them. Among its measures, Saitama has opened a “Young Carer Online Saloon,” where student caregivers can easily hold conversations through the Zoom video conferencing platform. According to Saitama officials, it would be the first such system in Japan.

The saloon is open for about two hours once a month. University students who have cared for family members attend as listeners and talk about their experiences as needed.

The Saitama government distributed posters and cards to 193 public and private high schools in the prefecture, north of Tokyo, to publicize the program online. With many student nurses nationwide reluctant to reveal their status, the prefectural government accepts saloon participation by students from outside the prefecture.

The saloon is operated by Carer Action Network, a Tokyo-based incorporated association, on behalf of the prefectural government. “We hope high school students in similar circumstances will talk to each other and become friends at the saloon,” said Kyoko Mochida, who heads the association.

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