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.


Andrew Wright said...

I'm not an economist, but it seems to me that business (and by extension government) often has trouble balancing a desire for low wages to minimise business costs (especially important for export oriented industry) with the need for cash in people's pockets in order to stimulate domestic demand. When you get deflation I would have thought the latter was more important.

And it's not just money either. It would be interesting to compare how much money is pumped into the economy through the hospitality and tourism industries based on the amount of annual leave available to employees.

Flights between Australia and Japan are doing very well at the moment with extra services being added. But I believe that the demand is primarily from Australia because more Australians, most importantly younger Australians, can afford it in time and money. No matter how much Australia advertises itself, increasing the reverse flow is difficult because of the lower Japanese incomes and the fact they simply don't have the holiday time to come here until they retire.

Cecilia said...

Yes. I couldn't agree more.
I went to a labour issues seminar last night and was dismayed that the presenter seemed to think putting all Japanese society on work contracts would solve the country's economic woes. But I guess her perspectives is that people exist for corporations, not corporations exist for people.

Depressing stuff.