Japan's 2020 suicide spike led by female workers, Kyodo reports

In Japan, Covid-19 has disproportionately affected women.
In Japan, Covid-19 has disproportionately affected women.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - A spike in Japanese suicides last year was fuelled by more female workers and students taking their own lives during the Covid pandemic, Kyodo News reported, citing a white paper that will be released by the country's Health Ministry in November.

Changes of work environment due to the pandemic may have been the largest contributing factor, Kyodo said, citing the paper. The outlet didn't say how it had obtained the document.

A Health Ministry official told Bloomberg that the white paper had been presented in a closed meeting by Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party healthcare committee on Tuesday (Sept 28), and that it could not be officially released until November.

The country's total number of suicide cases increased by 912 from the previous year to 21,081 total cases, Kyodo said, rising for the first time in 11 years.

Cases involving working women rose the most, followed by female students, while the number of male suicides fell for the 11th consecutive year, it said.

Japan is among the few major economies that releases detailed data on suicides, a persistent societal issue.

The spike in numbers could be a pattern being seen elsewhere in the world, as countries grapple with the fallout from unemployment and social isolation brought on by the pandemic.

In Japan, Covid-19 has disproportionately affected women, who are more likely to deal with irregular employment in the retail or service industries, and made up nearly 66 per cent of job losses in the country early last year.

The higher number of suicides among students was linked to schools reopening after lengthy closures due to the pandemic and the summer break, Kyodo said, citing the paper.