The Japanese government has pledged to stop sending people back to rice farming after a study by researchers at the Japan Institute for Population Research and Policy found that some of the country’s most prosperous communities were suffering the highest rates of child mortality, with the rate of babies born to mothers older than 45 years old highest in areas where people were most likely to be employed.
Infection levels in areas with high levels of unemployment are higher than those in areas without such conditions, the report said.
The researchers analysed data from 5,700 households from 18 regions across the country, including the cities of Yokohama and Nagoya, to determine the factors that might be behind this high rate of child deaths.
They found that households with lower levels of education, lower income, and the highest level of unemployment had the highest child mortality rate.
They also found that the most impoverished households had the lowest child mortality rates.
In Yokohamas, the lowest mortality rate in the study was among households with a household income of 1,000 yen ($10) or less.
Among those with a salary above that, the rate was just under 0.7 per cent.
The study also found low fertility in the city of Yokosuka, which is located on the edge of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
It found that in the first six months of 2017, there were 5.3 children per woman.
The rate of births was 4.2 per cent, or 0.4 children per mother.
The number of births declined steadily in the second half of the year, from 1,732 in June to 707 in September.
The number of children per female dropped from 3.1 to 2.1 in the third quarter.
In Nagoya and Yokosaka, the most prosperous areas, there was a slight decline in the number of babies per mother between June and September, from 2.5 to 2 per woman, the study said.
In other words, fertility rates declined in areas that had high levels for high levels and also declined in those that had lower levels.
“It is clear that low fertility is a significant risk factor for child mortality,” said Dr Shunji Sugimura, the lead researcher of the study and a professor at the University of Yokoshima’s School of Social Science.
“In particular, low fertility and low levels of employment in the rice farming community are a risk factor in terms of high child mortality.”
The findings come after a recent WHO report found that rice farming is a major cause of the spread of polio.
“A child born to a mother in the highest income bracket in Japan is 1.7 times more likely to die from polio than a child born in the lowest income bracket,” said the WHO report.
“The study provides evidence that the risk of polio infection for women in the lower income bracket is very high, and that there is a strong risk of contracting polio from mothers in low-income households.”
The study’s findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.