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Divorce Rate and Unemployment


Nothing is less reliable than official statistics in Okinawa.

The unemployment rate at the end of 1998 was 8.3%, twice as high as that of mainland Japan. In addition to its inability to get away from economic dependency on U.S. military bases, a recession made a direct hit. It is understandable why the voters were moved by Inamine Keiichi, who presented an economic recovery policy during the gubernatorial election. Okinawa always wavered, in whether to choose the removal of the bases or an economic recovery in exchange. Be that as it may, it’s been a quarter of a century since I first wrote this draft. The latest unemployment rate of 20211 is 3.7%, which is still the highest in Japan, however, the economic dependency on bases is gone today. Okinawa’s economy can be managed without the bases: this rate is due to the heavy blow of Covid-19 in tourism featuring the economy.  

Likewise, the employment rate of 44% for women in 1997 was lower than the national average of 50.4%. It sounds similar to Kanagawa, where the proportion of full-time housewives is the top of all, and yet Okinawa’s women are known to be hard workers. Are the Okinawa women fed by their hubby’s wage without labor? As far as I know, I have hardly seen such a woman. The participation rate of women in 2019 is 54.9%, above the national average of 53.3%. They are, indeed, busy bees. Regardless, the national average for the working-age population between 15-64 years old is 72.6%, while Okinawa is at 70.3%, and what’s more, atypical employments such as short-time workers are predominant. Okinawan women are hard workers; however, in disadvantageous labors.

That’s not all. Women in Okinawa tend to work in a way that doesn’t show in statistics. That is in the Shadow Economy, where figures or tax offices can not seize. Most of them are working in restaurants and sex businesses. Daily wages in cash receipt. Even if the hubby is jobless, or a single mother, the wifey’s wage would somehow earn a living. Why send the money away to authorities, when you earned it devoting your body and soul? Another example is yuta. A “healing” industry, as it is said: “Men buy women, women buy yuta.” In this shadowed field where even insurances are worthless, no one has ever figured out the population engaged in business, or how much money is involved.

When the nation won’t protect them, and men are unreliable, women have to grow strong. The rise in the divorce rate is its consequences. According to the data of prefectures in Japan, Okinawa and Hokkaido compete for the top divorce rate. Yet, their backgrounds are the complete opposite. In Hokkaido, it is easy to divorce because the relative’s network has weak pressure, while in Okinawa, the maternal kindreds network supports the divorced women. As seen in the Tōtōmē inheritance issues, the paternal kindred seems to be superior at first sight in Okinawa, nonetheless, it is actually the women’s ability to organize a local or blood relatives network. Hokkaido is a land strongly dependent on public services. Men are at the mercy of the authority’s intentions and recessions, whereas in Okinawa, women build a living without relying on men. However in recent years, these maternal kindred networks are less functioning, and women tend to get isolated. The pregnancy and childbirth of younger women are always a big issue.    

But then, a top divorce rate is not a shameful figure at all. At the root of divorces is domestic violence or abuse. The tendency of divorces in recent years lies in that the existence of a child, or the young age of the child would not be a deterrence to divorce. Even if they’re poor, or suffering, they run away from tyrannical husbands. Women ceased to endure. To have the liberty to divorce is much better than not having it. A low divorce rate might be an indicator of women’s suppression. As a result, many single-mother households are born in Okinawa; the problem is that the support does not reach single mothers. In the time of Covid-19, Kodomo shokudou is developing nationally in order to save Child Poverty, though as a matter of course, children are poor because their parents are poor. To speak “for the children,” I insist on supporting single mothers first of all.

Editor’s Note:

  1. Data from the Ryukyu Shimpo of February 2nd, 2022
  2. A social activity that offers children a community and a place to eat a nutritious meal, free or at a low price.