Japanese youth face a pessimistic, work-filled future
Japan’s young people are some of the gloomiest in today’s world society. Less than 40 percent believe they will have a bright and prosperous future, one of the lowest percentages in the world. This figure even sits beneath Greece, whose young people have been subjected to spikes in unemployment and economic downturn.
A prime focus on work over life balance is a key factor. The small towns, suburbs and rural areas surrounding the cities were once filled with young families through the seventies.
However, these areas have been all but abandoned. In the 21st century, Japan’s young people have been on an exodus to the cities, attempting to find whatever work they can to support themselves.
Even with its low crime rate and bustling cityscapes, Japan’s highly controversial cases of “karoshi” (Overwork) binds individuals, especially young men to endless hours of work with few breaks. In April 2014, Joey Tocnang died from heart failure at the casting company he worked at after many overtime shifts.
A lack of optimism for their future lives and careers has taken a toll on Japanese young people, particularly with relationships and marriage. A government study found that 69 percent of Japanese men and 59 percent of Japanese women do not have a romantic partner; having given up on dating, many are choosing to marry their closest friends.
With low incomes and dead-end jobs, most couples choose not to start families.
“My girlfriend told me, if this is all I make, we can’t get married, we can’t have children,” Daisuke Oya, a 23-year-old machine operator, said. “Honestly, it was pretty shocking to think about.”
The hardships suffered by young people are having a knock-on effect on Japan — its elderly population is expected to rise from 2.7 million to 4.1 million by 2040, which will create a large social care crisis.
When this bubble bursts, young people will be forced to bear the brunt of the bills. With one of the lowest birth rates in the world at 8.4 per 1000 inhabitants, Japan’s treatment of its youth is ultimately in need of a jolt, something to motivate and inspire them.
As for the future of the nation, preventing disillusionment and engaging young people will be vastly important.