Prison & Japanese pensioners

Debbie Harris
March 2023  •  5 min read

Crime wave amongst Japanese pensioners

I read a very interesting article in the news recently about Japan’s elderly committing crimes in order to get themselves sent to prison.

69-year-old Toshio Takata said “I reached pension age and then I ran out of money. So it occurred to me – perhaps I could live for free if I lived in jail”.  So he committed a petty theft offence and was sentenced to a year in prison.  He has spent much of the last eight years in and out of prison and whilst he doesn’t ‘enjoy’ it; he still receives his pension and so has some money saved for his living expenses when he gets out.

Repeat offending is a way to ‘get back into prison’, where there are three square meals a day and no bills.

What a terribly sad and sorry state of affairs.  The state pension in Japan is not enough for a basic quality of life for a retiree and the trend of children looking after their elders waned some decades prior.

“Ultimately the relationship among people has changed. People have become more isolated. They don’t find a place to be in this society. They cannot put up with their loneliness,” says 85-year-old Kanichi Yamada.

What is somewhat ridiculous in all this (aside from elderly folk deliberately getting themselves into trouble) is that it would cost a lot less for the government to build an industrial complex retirement village where people would forfeit half their pension but get free food, free board and healthcare and so on, and get to play karaoke or gate-ball with the other residents and have a relative amount of freedom.

Although this is happening in Japan, we also have a problem here in the UK with the exorbitant cost of living in retirement homes (or care).  So much so, that many pensioners here (and in the US where there is a flourishing market tailored specifically to this) are opting to ‘live’ on cruise ships – they get meals, board, company, entertainment, healthcare and they get to see some incredible places along the way – highly preferable to a stint in Wormwood Scrubs!

A film available on your platform of choice starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin “Going in Style” picks up on a similar theme, though this group have had their pensions stolen through corporate mismanagement. Here is the trailer of the 2017 film directed by Zach Braff.

Prison & Japanese pensioners2023-12-01T12:12:36+00:00

Meet the new Boss (of Japan)


Meet the new Boss (of Japan)

There was little doubt that Shinzo Abe would be granted a third term as Prime Minister; the ruling coalition’s majority was almost entirely insurmountable, certainly from the perspective of an opposition party in a state of disarray . In the event, the inevitability of it all encouraged the lowest voter-turnout in living memory (at 52.4%).

Actually, Abe’s victory was not entirely a compelling one. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost 3 of the seats they gained in the 2012 election while their coalition partners, Komeito (described by the Financial Times as ‘pacifist-leaning’), gained 4 seats. Together, they attracted just shy of 50% of votes compared with nearly 23% for the Democratic Party of Japan.

As an aside, a fall in the share of seats for the LDP coincided with a rise in seats for Komeito. The numbers are small (3 lost versus 4 gained) but that ought to help calm fears that Shinzo Abe will shift his focus from domestic economics to a more aggressive form of foreign policy. Komeito’s 2014 manifesto committed them to ‘improving relations with China and South Korea’ and renewed their desire for a ‘zero-nuclear world’. Indeed, the bulk of Abe’s victory speech focused on domestic issues and contained a promise to ‘further push forward our economic policies in a firm and dramatic manner’. crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon3

From the outside looking in, Abenomics 2.0 looks very much like Abenomics 1.0. The only real difference is in the timetable for the remainder of the consumption tax hike (from 8% to 10%) which, barring any more surprises, has been delayed until 2017. Of course the next few weeks will bring policy announcements intended to boost consumer spending and cushion the more harmful effects of a hugely depreciated yen. But these will be fixes – attempts to mask the side effects of established policy – rather than newly originated measures.

In spite of the excitement of the last few months our benchmark for success remains the same – Japan will be significantly closer to sustained growth if real wage rises can be generated in the first instance and maintained in the second instance. Without real wage rises, consumers will see their standard of living eroded while monetary policy supports surging share prices and inflated corporate profits. In time, that will undermine a sense of fairness – a feeling that the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ is widening – and support for the government will fade.

That is why we place so much emphasis on the package of measures comprising the ‘third arrow’. A tighter labour market (unemployment stands at just 3.5%) and a threat to tax retained corporate earnings might be enough to encourage wage rises which exceed inflation in the short term but far-reaching structural reforms are probably more important in the medium term.

Make no mistake though, Shinzo Abe faces a task of Herculean proportions. In pushing through his reform agenda, to encourage competition in hitherto protected industrial sectors, he must combat powerful vested interests. Japan’s aging and shrinking demographic brings great danger in the long term. But the Japanese have long enjoyed a very high standard of living and Mr Abe’s reforms threaten to disrupt the status quo in the short term.

Steve Williams

Meet the new Boss (of Japan)2023-12-01T12:39:47+00:00
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