Economic Polarization

Some people, even BLM leaders, say that Burakumin are slowly prospering. Rich and poor, however, are relative terms. We should greet all improvements in Buraku, surely. But improvements in the conditions of certain Burakumin may be due to external conditions, i.e., outside the Buraku. This might be hard to see, except case-by-case and anecdotally. Unfortunately, the environment of discrimination suffered by Burakumin has never improved essentially. Research reveals economic and educational polarization between Burakumin and the general public.

For half a century, the economic situation of Burakumin has not improved. Please refer to Table 1 and Table 2. These data are from research delegated by the BLL to the Institute of Social Theory and Dynamics in 2017. Table 1 shows annual incomes of Burakumin. Individuals earning annual incomes under 2 million yen was 1.68 times of the all the prefecture. A stunning 41.3% of Burakumin are in relative poverty. The poverty line, in Japan, is 1.2 million yen in annual income. This was by far the largest tier, for Burakumin.  For the prefecture as a whole, the largest tier was less than 4 million yen. This proved the poverty of Burakumin. Table 2 reveals gaps of education. In Japan, an individual who has no higher than elementary school, or junior high school, is hard put for desirable employment. 

Table 1 Annual incomes 
Less than 1 million yenLess than 2 million yenLess than 3 million yenLess than 4 million yenLess than 5 million yenLess than 7 million yenLess than 15 million yenMore than 15 million yen
All the pref.18.9%18.4%19.1%25.0%11.0%6.1%1.6%0.5%
Table 2 Educational background
Elementary schoolJunior high schoolOld style junior high school or senior high schoolSpecialty school, training college and so on Junior college and tertiary collegeUniversity and graduate college
All the pref.7.5%46.4%6.9%10.7%28.5%

The economic issue is the essence of social contradiction. For the people, economy means the relationship of production and labor. The consciousness of the people is constructed on that superstructure. Individuals in economic difficulty tend not to achieve academic careers and cultural capital. Lack of cultural capital reproduces poverty. In the Buraku, spirals of want and poverty descend, promoting discrimination. 

Incidentally, this essay can offer readers a fine example of improvements around Buraku, against natural disasters. In 1972, a huge natural disaster struck Hiroshima prefecture. In Buraku, deaths were 6.8 times the general mortality of the prefecture. Property damage was 7.9 times. Affirmative action measures since then have resulted in the construction of levees and fortified riverbanks. Disasters no longer produce the disparities of 1972. This is good. But it is sad that disaster-survival is the only area of improvement to report, at the present time.

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