6.5 % of 6th graders in Japan look after family members

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A government survey showed on Thursday that 6.5% of elementary school sixth graders in Japan said they take care of family members.

The welfare ministry survey on carers aged under 18 also found that 7.1% of those caring for family members spend at least seven hours per weekday on the activities. It was the government’s first survey on the issue that covered elementary school children.

The survey was conducted on sixth graders across the country mainly by mail in January, with 9,759 of them giving answers.

According to the survey, 631 children, or about one in 15, said they have family members receiving care from them.

With multiple answers allowed, the largest group of the carers said that such family members are their siblings.

Of the total carers, 27.4%, or the largest group, said they spend one to less than two hours per weekday on family care.

Children with family members who need their care were more likely to be absent from school, arrive late and leave early than those with no such responsibility, according to the survey.

Meanwhile, over half of the sixth graders who help family members said they do not feel burdened about giving care.

Some 60% of the total carers said they recognize no particular restrictions on them arising from the duty, the survey said, suggesting that some children do not feel the need to receive assistance.

The ministry also conducted an online survey on third-year university students whose academic performance may be affected because they have to take care of family members.

The survey showed that 987, or 10.2%, of the 9,679 respondents have or had family members to look after.

With multiple answers allowed, the largest group among the 987 students said they take or took care of their mothers.

Among the total carers, 36.2%, or the largest group, put the amount of time spent on family care at one hour to less than three hours per weekday, while 6.4% put the amount at seven hours or more per weekday.

Last year, the government’s first survey on young carers, carried out by the welfare and education ministries, found that 5.7% of second-year students at junior high schools and 4.1% of second-year students at full-day high schools had family members receiving care from them.

The surveys on elementary school sixth graders and third-year university students were conducted in response to calls for research into the actual situation of carers at elementary school and university age.