Jump to content
House Price Crash Forum
nicklaus

Social Recession And Japan's Lost Generations

Recommended Posts

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogaug10/Japan-lost-generations08-10.html

Stumbled across this article earlier. Feels like we could be on our way to something similar here what with the prospects for our younger generations.

What happens to the social fabric of an advanced-economy nation after a decade or more of economic stagnation? For an answer, we can turn to Japan. The second-largest economy in the world has stagnated in just this fashion for almost twenty years, and the consequences for the "lost generations" which have come of age in the "lost decades" have been dire. In many ways, the social conventions of Japan are fraying or unraveling under the relentless pressure of an economy in seemingly permanent decline.

While the world sees Japan as the home of consumer technology juggernauts such as Sony and Toshiba and high-tech "bullet trains" (shinkansen), beneath the bright lights of Tokyo and the evident wealth generated by decades of hard work and the massive global export machine of "Japan, Inc," lies a different reality: increasing poverty and decreasing opportunity for the nation's youth.

The gap between extremes of income at the top and bottom of society-- measured by the Gini coefficient -- has been growing in Japan for years; to the surprise of many outsiders, once-egalitarian Japan is becoming a nation of haves and have-nots.

The media in Japan have popularized the phrase "kakusa shakai," literally meaning "gap society." As the elite slice of society prospers and younger workers are increasingly marginalized, the media has focused on the shrinking middle class. For example, a bestselling book offers tips on how to get by on an annual income of less than three million yen ($34,800). Two million yen ($23,000) has become the de-facto poverty line for millions of Japanese, especially outside high-cost Tokyo.

More than one-third of the workforce is part-time as companies have shed the famed Japanese lifetime employment system, nudged along by government legislation which abolished restrictions on flexible hiring a few years ago. Temp agencies have expanded to fill the need for contract jobs, as permanent job opportunities have dwindled.

Many fear that as the generation of salaried Baby Boomers dies out, the country's economic slide might accelerate. Japan's share of the global economy has fallen below 10 percent from a peak of 18 percent in 1994. Were this decline to continue, income disparities would widen and threaten to pull this once-stable society apart.

Young Japanese, their expectations permanently downsized, are increasingly opting out of the rigid social systems on which Japan, Inc. was built.

The term "Freeter" is a hybrid word that originated in the late 1980s, just as the Japanese property and stock market bubbles reached their zenith. It combines the English "free" a nd the German "arbeiter," or worker, and describes a lifestyle which is radically different from the buttoned-down rigidity of the permanent-employment economy: freedom to move between jobs.

This absence of loyalty to a company is totally alien to previous generations of driven Japanese "salarymen" who were expected to uncomplainingly turn in 70-hour work weeks at the same company for decades, all in exchange for lifetime employment.

Many young people have come to mistrust big corporations, having seen their fathers or uncles eased out of "lifetime" jobs in the relentless downsizing of the past twenty years. From the point of view of the younger generations, the loyalty their parents unstintingly offered to companies was wasted.

They have also come to see diminishing value in the grueling study and tortuous examinations required to compete for the elite jobs in academia, industry and government; with opportunities fading, long years of study are perceived as pointless.

In contrast, the "freeter" lifestyle is one of hopping between short-term jobs and devoting energy and time to foreign travel, hobbies or other interests.

As long ago as 2001, The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates that 50 percent of high school graduates and 30 percent of college graduates now quit their jobs within three years of leaving school.

The downside is permanently downsized income and prospects. Many of the four million "freeters" survive on part-time work and either live at home or in a tiny flat with no bath. A typical "freeter" wage is 1,000 yen ($8.60) an hour.

Japan's slump has lasted so long, a "New Lost Generation" is coming of age, joining Japan's first "Lost Generation" which graduated into the bleak job market of the 1990s.

These trends have led to an ironic moniker for the Freeter lifestyle: Dame-Ren (No Good People). The Dame-Ren get by on odd jobs, low-cost living and drastically diminished expectations.

The decline of permanent employment has led to the unraveling of social mores and conventions. Many young men now reject the macho work ethic and related values of their fathers. These "herbivores" reject the traditonal Samurai ideal of masculinity.

Derisively called "herbivores" or "Grass-eaters," these young men are uncompetitive and uncommitted to work, evidence of their deep disillusionment with Japan's troubled economy.

A bestselling book titled The Herbivorous Ladylike Men Who Are Changing Japan by Megumi Ushikubo, president of Tokyo marketing firm Infinity, claims that about two-thirds of all Japanese men aged 20-34 are now partial or total grass-eaters. "People who grew up in the bubble era (of the 1980s) really feel like they were let down. They worked so hard and it all came to nothing," says Ms Ushikubo. "So the men who came after them have changed."

This has spawned a disconnect between genders so pervasive that Japan is experiencing a "social recession" in marriage, births, and even sex, all of which are declining.

With a wealth and income divide widening along generational lines, many young Japanese are attaching themselves to their parents, the generation that accumulated home and savings during the boom years of the 1970's and 1980's. Surveys indicate that roughly two-thirds of freeters live at home.

Freeters "who have no children, no dreams, hope or job skills could become a major burden on society, as they contribute to the decline in the birthrate and in social insurance contributions," Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor wrote in a magazine essay titled, Parasite Singles Feed on Family System.

This trend of never leaving home has sparked an almost tragicomical countertrend of Japanese parents who actively seek mates to marry off their "parasite single" offspring as the only way to get them out of the house.

An even more extreme social disorder is Hikikomori, or "acute social withdrawal," a condition in which the young live-at-home person will virtually wall themselves off from the world by never leaving their room.

Though acute social withdrawal in Japan affect both genders, impossibly high expectations of males from middle and upper middle class families has led many sons, typically the eldest, to refuse to leave the home. The trigger for this complete withdrawal from social interaction is often one or more traumatic episodes of social or academic failure: that is, the inability to meet standards of conduct and success that can no longer be met in diminished-opportunity Japan.

The unraveling of Japan's social fabric as a result of eroding economic conditions for young people offers Americans a troubling glimpse of the high costs of long-term economic stagnation.

There is even a darker side to this disintegration of the social fabric and convention: child abuse is on the rise as well. Sadly, people under long-term stress often take out their multiple frustrations on the weakest, most marginalized people--including children:

Record 44,210 child abuse cases logged in '09

Japan hit by huge rise in child abuse

Both Japan and the U.S. alike desperately need a peaceful revolution in expectations, financial justice (i.e. the absence of fraud, collusion, looting, gaming the system and parasitic leeching by financial and political Elites) and in the social definitions of wealth, security, community, "growth" as a measure of well-being and prosperity, and ultimately, what constitutes meaningful "work."

In effect, postwar Japan grafted a mercantilist export economy based on insane work-hours onto a traditional patriarchal society in which women were expected to sacrifice their autonomy and ambitions for the good of their children, husband and the husband's parents.

The male "salaryman" was expected to sacrifice his life up to retirement to his employer, via 60-70 hour work-weeks and killing commutes. Children were expected to sacrifice their childhood and teen years to study, in order to pass hellishly demanding exams on which their future livelihood, career and income depended.

These extremes of sacrifice might have made sense or seemed necessary to rebuild the nation after World War II. But now, 65 years and three generations after the war, these sacrifices make no sense and are destroying the social fabric of Japan.

Men who work 70 hours a week have no real role in their children's lives, nor are they able to be husbands and fathers in any meaningful day-to-day sense. Understandably, many young Japanese men are opting out of that life of absurd, fundamentally meaningless sacrifice to corporations or the government.

For their part, young women are opting out of the burdens of being in effect a single parent who carries the immense responsibility of guaranteeing the academic success of her son(s) and the marriageability of her daughter(s). Further, as in standard traditional societies, she essentially leaves her own family and throws in her lot with her husband's family, as she is expected to care for his aging parents as a daughter-in-law.

Given these burdens, it's no wonder a third of Japanese young women have not married and have no plans to marry. According to one female author quoted in one of the above articles, Japanese men sometimes propose to women with lines like: "I want you to cook miso soup for me the rest of my life." Quelle surprise that Japan's increasingly educated and well-traveled young women are not impressed with this offer of lifetime menial servitude.

Japan's youth are opting out of its stagnating economy and traditionalist society for good reason: the sacrifices demanded are inhuman and no longer make sense. What Japan needs is 35-hour work-weeks and shared jobs, not 70-hour work-weeks for some and dead-end jobs for half its youth.

If Japan wants to encourage families and women to have children, then it needs to recognize that the sacrifices demanded of young men and women no longer make sense in today's world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sound just like the UK, worryingly.

A few freedoms have destroyed our moral fabric. Half the children think they're queer and the lesbians want IVF. The other half, those that don't, sleep around, have a kid and cohabit for a year, realise they cant afford to work because wages are so low, and throw themselves up the mercy of the apparently generous state (when you take into account wages), and do it again until they get a 3bed council house. The final half remain single. People can't even reed right or add up anymore!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, the bit about the youth having no hope, no dreams, no job is very apt.

Thankfully I don't think any where in europe has anything like the Japanese work ethic, as it said 70hr weeks must be sole destroying so it's not hard to see why younger people are rejecting that!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sound just like the UK, worryingly.

A few freedoms have destroyed our moral fabric. Half the children think they're queer and the lesbians want IVF. The other half, those that don't, sleep around, have a kid and cohabit for a year, realise they cant afford to work because wages are so low, and throw themselves up the mercy of the apparently generous state (when you take into account wages), and do it again until they get a 3bed council house. The final half remain single. People can't even reed right or add up anymore!

The article seems to suggest that if Japan improves the status of women in its society many of its current problems will disappear.

Its possibly an area where things are much better (though perhaps not perfect) in Northern Europe and the UK where juggling family & work responsibilities are better shared between partners. In Japan and certain European Meditterranean societies attitudes are very backward with the knock on effect of a lower birth rate

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Japan is a fascinating place.

Riding on a train full of people in various uniforms and suits with faces as calm as hindu cows, you would never expect the utter misery that lies underneath.

Then perhaps once every couple of months someone would snap. It might be a girl sobbing hysterically, or a drunk business man stripping bollock naked and pissing in the corner, but you'd still see absolutely no reaction from everyone else. In any other country people would be falling over each other to help these people, or get out of their way, but in Japan everyone pretends they're not seeing it. It's the unspoken reality that everyone pretends doesn't exist, that Japan's social system is rotten to the core.

What other country has a 'Bad man pole' in every primary school? A big 8foot aluminium pole with a semi circle at one end to be used in the increasingly likely event of a citizen going ape shit and walking into the school and slashing innocent kids with a knife, so they can be pinned to the wall just out of arms (slashing) length and held there until the police arrive to cart them off to the funny farm with all the other robots that broke programming.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

People can't even reed right or add up anymore!

You seem to have split the population into three halves and that's not how you spell 'read' - did you forget a smiley?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "freeter" thing sounds like everybody I know pretty much! I've never worked more than 3 years in one job. And myself, and everybody else I know, is much more focused on hobbies and such than careers.

No bad thing I think.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, the bit about the youth having no hope, no dreams, no job is very apt.

It's a toughy all right. The key question is whether the Japanese will allow mass immigration or not. I don't think that they will, as they understand and value their own culture too much.

Let's asume that there's no mass immigration. The birth rate is too low to prevent a collapse of the population. Okay, the cities will be crowded for years to come, but the rural areas will be hit hard. I don't know how Japan is going to pay for its social welfare with so few workers supporting so many elderly. But eventually, the system will reach an equilibrium, one housing prices make 3-bdrm homes affordable, and people will start having larger families again. It could be another 40 years before this happens, though, as all the baby-boomers will have to die off first.

How are they going to deal with all the elderly? I think we might see a new spin placed on death: the notion of honorable sacrifice for the sake of the next generation. This is all uncharted territory for Japan. They are going to have to make up the rule book as they go along.

Don't write Japan off yet, but they could be on the mat for a couple of decades to come. With a 98.6%-homogenous society, it's really hard to blame others for your domestic social problems.

Edited by Odakyu-sen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "freeter" thing sounds like everybody I know pretty much! I've never worked more than 3 years in one job. And myself, and everybody else I know, is much more focused on hobbies and such than careers.

No bad thing I think.

As long as the hobbies are useful things.Growing fruit & vegetables , learning a musical instrument , sports/gym , cooking.

Too many people have only computers/music/television as hobbies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As long as the hobbies are useful things.Growing fruit & vegetables , learning a musical instrument , sports/gym , cooking.

Too many people have only computers/music/television as hobbies.

Goes to show that 'useful' is very much a matter of individual perspective. :P Cooking is useful? Maybe if you like fancy food, but if you don't, who cares.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As long as the hobbies are useful things.Growing fruit & vegetables , learning a musical instrument , sports/gym , cooking.

Too many people have only computers/music/television as hobbies.

Yeah, wasting their days arguing on forums with people they will never meet. Complete waste of time.

.

.

.

Hold on, I'm just thinking this over.

.

.

<CARRIER SIGNAL LOST>.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "freeter" thing sounds like everybody I know pretty much! I've never worked more than 3 years in one job. And myself, and everybody else I know, is much more focused on hobbies and such than careers.

No bad thing I think.

They have increased leisure time. Why is that a bad news story? Only for the unimaginative.

It's fine if all you want from life is a series of entertaining experiences. If you want something more concrete than that e.g. a family, a home, a stable occupation... Good luck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's fine if all you want from life is a series of entertaining experiences. If you want something more concrete than that e.g. a family, a home, a stable occupation... Good luck.

I couldn't imagine doing the same job for more than five years, I'd be bored to death. Doing it for 30-40 years just boggles my mind. So "stable occupation" is hardly a plus.

The longest I've ever been unemployed is three months, so I figure all is well on that front.

Having a family is hardly an issue as the chav brigade show. And a home, well. I think most people under 35 have already written that off to be honest, at least those I know. Perhaps this crash will change that, but I'm not sure they are even thinking about it anymore to TBH.

Edited by EUBanana

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And a home, well. I think most people under 35 have already written that off to be honest, at least those I know. Perhaps this crash will change that, but I'm not sure they are even thinking about it anymore to TBH.

Yes, I agree that most young people have pretty much written it off as an option. When I think about actually owning bricks and windows and a roof and floor it feels like fantasising about owning an island or a yacht. I can kind of imagine what it might be like, but I don't feel like it will ever actually happen. I suspect that for many people travelling, hobbies, and other forms of entertainment are an unconscious coping mechanism. Even if you're not "getting anywhere", at least you can still have fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a toughy all right. The key question is whether the Japanese will allow mass immigration or not. I don't think that they will, as they understand and value their own culture too much.

They're going to have to, one way or another. China, N Korea...?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As long as the hobbies are useful things.Growing fruit & vegetables , learning a musical instrument , sports/gym , cooking.

Too many people have only computers/music/television as hobbies.

I don't understand what makes you a better arbiter of the usefulness of particular hobbies. Every individual can choose for themselves. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I couldn't imagine doing the same job for more than five years, I'd be bored to death. Doing it for 30-40 years just boggles my mind. So "stable occupation" is hardly a plus.

Me too. But stable occupation usually means being settled in a particular location. You change jobs enough, particularly if you are qualified to perform a particular job, and you'll be moving around a lot.

Having a family is hardly an issue as the chav brigade show.

For them it requires government handouts and living in a crap estate surrounded by screaming kids and yapping dogs. That's not a family situation I want personally.

And a home, well. I think most people under 35 have already written that off to be honest, at least those I know.

So add to that the uncertainty of moving when your landlord goes bust or decides to sell up, and all the other problems of renting.

If you want something as simple as a life which is settled enough to allow for a family you're stuffed. Once you're out of your 20s the constant moving around and inability to plan for a future will wear thin.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I agree that most young people have pretty much written it off as an option. When I think about actually owning bricks and windows and a roof and floor it feels like fantasising about owning an island or a yacht. I can kind of imagine what it might be like, but I don't feel like it will ever actually happen. I suspect that for many people travelling, hobbies, and other forms of entertainment are an unconscious coping mechanism. Even if you're not "getting anywhere", at least you can still have fun.

I've tried to explain to my folks many times that me aspiring to buy my own home is on a similar level to them aspiring to buy a luxury yacht. There's little point stressing about something that is so far out of reach.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Me too. But stable occupation usually means being settled in a particular location. You change jobs enough, particularly if you are qualified to perform a particular job, and you'll be moving around a lot.

Well, I grew up in a little village in North Devon which is basically barren. I had to move out of there as soon as possible. Moving around since then, isn't really much of an issue.

For them it requires government handouts and living in a crap estate surrounded by screaming kids and yapping dogs. That's not a family situation I want personally.

Not necessarily. I actually grew up in a council house in the aforementioned little village, the offspring of a single mother who didn't work - not that there was any work there. It was quite a nice life if you're into the "rural idyll with nothing much to do and all day to do it" thing.

From what little I have seen anecdotally you don't get packed off to the roughest estate in town when you fall back on government handouts. I've never lived in a really big city though, university towns might be a bit different, but even Cambridge has it's rough and chavvish end.

So add to that the uncertainty of moving when your landlord goes bust or decides to sell up, and all the other problems of renting.

If you want something as simple as a life which is settled enough to allow for a family you're stuffed. Once you're out of your 20s the constant moving around and inability to plan for a future will wear thin.

Mmm maybe. I've actually never had a problem renting - well, aside from handing over all that cash to someone else's mortgage of course.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Goes to show that 'useful' is very much a matter of individual perspective. :P Cooking is useful? Maybe if you like fancy food, but if you don't, who cares.

those skills i mentioned will be more important in the future when sustainable living is the go

i believe practical hobbies are more enriching for the soul personally

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i believe practical hobbies are more enriching for the soul personally

Well, maybe, but "your mileage may vary". I can't think of many hobbies more dull than cooking TBH! Assuming we mean a little more than boiling eggs it's pretty much optional, too. I don't even really like cooked food that much.

And playing musical instruments? Pure escapism, not much practical about that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They're going to have to, one way or another. China, N Korea...?

I don't think the North Koreans are much of a threat. Watch them implode.

Certainly a lot more young, affluent Chinese are taking a greater interest in Japan, and it's one of the most popular places on their lists of countries to visit. I think more Chinese are going to look at certain aspects of the Japanese model as a pattern for sectors of their own society. I don't think the younger Chinese see Japan as much of a threat. South Korea and Japan are sorta cuddling up a little more. It's about time they learned to get along together.

Now, what to do about the Norks. It's going to be a real bitch for South Korea when the walls come down. Frankly, I don't think they want their poor cousins moving in, but are too proud to say anything to the contrary.

Meanwhile, Japan is going to have to chill out for a couple of decades until the States and Western Europe sort out their shit. :huh:

Edited by Odakyu-sen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • 259 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.