Taking care of the single peopleSingle-person household are rapidly increasing and the phenomenon will continue, a government survey showed.
According to a survey by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, the share of one-person households reached 30.4 percent last year, up 9.1 percentage points from the same survey five years ago. More surprisingly, seven out of 10 who lived alone did not have any plan to change their living status. More than half, or 53 percent, of people in their 20s living with family also plan to stay single.
The growth of single-person households on top of the low birth rate and fast aging requires an additional approach to ensure a sustainable society. Although those aged 50 or older whose spouses have died still make up a greater share of the one-person households, those in their 20s to 40s also account for 40 percent. Of them, 25 percent lived with a meager earning of 500,000 won ($450) to 1 million won and another 25 percent under 2 million won. Due to the different ages, generations and income, tailored countermeasures are needed.
The immediate need is housing. People living alone asked for the government to ensure housing security. The younger generation are more worried about a place to live. The government has begun to address increases in small-scale housing for young people in the outer areas or by renovating unused hotels, but that cannot be enough. Other governments include one-person units in public housing or remodeled buildings to supply cheaper rents. The government must first provide housing for low-income single families and then increase private supplies that can be appealing to higher-income households with one or two family members. Small-sized housing is lacking.
Another worry for people living alone is ensuring a balanced diet and difficulties of seeking help in emergency situations. Food delivery has become more easily accessible, but low-income or senior people cannot afford it. In countries where people living alone is already normal, there are community houses where senior citizens live under the same roof and share meals. A more creative welfare program is needed so that older people can look after each other on the same residential complex.
Industries also must respond to the changes in society. Due to the increase of people living alone, consumption patterns show that many prefer buying in small amounts in nearby convenience stores instead of purchasing a weekly necessity from large discount stores.
Meal packages, deliveries and customized moving service for one person have become common in Japan. Under the single-person household phenomenon, public policy should not entirely focus on driving up the birth rate. A fast response will help create new industry and jobs.