Sunday, 15 March 2015
Japan's internet cafe residents
In a city where (almost) everyone has a mobile phone, and most homes have internet connections, it's surprising that there are still so many internet cafes. Part of the reason for it is the extensive video games and comic book collections, but part of the reason is that there are many semi-permanent residents who live in them. No utility bills, cheaper than paying rent, especially considering that there are showers and drinks available. The economic system in Japan is unsustainable. The divide between full time and part time workers is too severe. The system is designed for couples. One person in the couple is a full time worker who earns a reasonable income; the other (almost always female) works part time in jobs that are kept at artificially low wages due to the tax system that gives large dependent tax breaks. People who are not a dependent but are locked into the part time worker category, are treated ruthlessly by the system. Wages for the retail sector can be as little as 7$ an hour - in Tokyo it's a bit more - around $10. If a person works in retail s/he needs to work more than 80 hours to earn an average wage of a full time worker. (See here for more detail.)
In one of my classes this semester I'll be showing this. In part to raise awareness, in part to analyse the problems, and in part to try and grapple with possible solutions. The future of Japan depends on people looking at this kind of issue front on and with compassion, not simply with economic rationalism.