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Japan's burgeoning class: Working poor

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the working poor. The number of Japanese earning less than 2 million yen a year surged 40% from 2002 to 2006

I wouldn't have made much more than this when I was an ALT in junior high for a year. Sure the pay looked alright in the beginning, 12,000 yen a day, but there were gaps all over the yearly schedule, add on top of that summer and winter vacation for which I was not paid, and average it out I definitely needed the evening gig as well. So for anyone with big bright eyes for Japan consider that contract carefully. Especially if your school would not be near or in a big city where evening work is in abundance.

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this is nobody's fault but his own! gee! stop this socialism promotion! Am I supposed to feel sorry for this moron? Why should I pay taxes for someone who is purely incompetent? Bottom line: it's extremely easy to get a job paying about 200000/month. Just need to have IQ higher than a drunk pigeon.

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It depends where you live. In the countryside there is not much work and most pays about 700 per hour. If the person did not go to university, his choices are limited.

Anyway, let's just forget about useless people who have an IQ lower than a drunken pigeon. Let's just throw money at bankers and those in such useful work as the securities business instead.

I trust Nisegaijin doesn't think those promoted capitalism through the derivatives market deserve to end up on the street.

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Lot's of ALT jobs now are very very cheap. The salary for that kind of job hasn't increased in 15 years. People 15 years ago were making 200,000 to 300,000 yen a month. With skyrocketing prices, teaching will be given back to the Japanese market with a few western faces. Most private direct hire schools pay 400,000 yen or higher. Most out sourcing companies are charging 400,000 a month or higher and paying their teachers 60% or even 50% of the fee they charge. It's almost criminal that they take so much off the top. Some profit is fine, but 12,000 yen a day then charging the customer 20,000 or more. Bring back the system where schools and labor boards contract directly and pay the teacher their value. But those days won't happen until schools really care about western teachers and investigate the fees teachers are getting.

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If I were in such a situation as the article described, I would probably invest in starting a hot dog stand, or take out a loan to start one.

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The author was tortured to death by police in a Tokyo prison at age 29 in 1933.........Ah the good old days that the nationalists pine for!!!

But wait, isn't Japan importing labor because of a "labor shortage"??? Aren't they importing nurses and factory workers??? Either the article is way off...I mean WAY OFF or it is difficult for young people to get started without any seconadry education or job skills. Is that so special or unique??? How can Brazilians come from Brazil...NYUK-NYUK..and get started here while some guy from Yamaguchi can't??? I'll tell ya why!!!!!!!!!!!!! Because he's a FATLOSER, like me. He doesn't fit into society, he didn't and he won't!! HE'S an outcast..a freak. He fell behind LONG ago and he couldn't catch up and now it's too late. Chances are there are jobs that don't appeal to him that would give him more money,but he doesn't want them. What gets my GOAT is how this article fails to mention the army of homeless from the previous generation. Maybe this "problem" ain't so new and maybe society isn't changing so much. HOW about THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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It depends where you live. In the countryside there is not much work and most pays about 700 per hour. If the person did not go to university, his choices are limited.Anyway, let's just forget about useless people who have an IQ lower than a drunken pigeon. Let's just throw money at bankers and those in such useful work as the securities business instead.I trust Nisegaijin doesn't think those promoted capitalism through the derivatives market deserve to end up on the street.

What do derivatives traders have to do with a lazy bum who can't find a decent job in TOKYO? Can you explain how capitalism can be promoted through capitalism? Free market capitalism is a luxury we don't have anymore. I would call today's society corporate fascism more than anything. Rich people become rich because they work hard and do important things. Why should they be giving away what is rightfully theirs. Rich people do the world a favor by employing others and giving them opportunity to get rich. under free market, there would be no need for labor laws because job market would be as large as any other market. Don't like your conditions? Just quit and find another job. I don't understand why people fail at such simple task. Bottom line: Life is an opportunity. You do nothing, you get nothing.

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A sad story, and a sad reflection of life in "Beautiful Japan" which as we all know, is not that beautiful. Social problems like this abound, with the J government doing little or nothing. The LDP has been in power for so long, Japan is going down the plughole. While this poor guy lives on next to nothing and is just the subject of exploitation, Aso has lunches that cost more than this guy earns in a month. What a sick place this is.

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I am a Democrat who supports Obama, but geez people, at some level you have to hold individuals accountable for their own actions.

It doesn't seem to make any sense to blame society or capitalism for this particular person's predicament. Lots of people work their way through college. It doesn't have to be Todai, he couldn't go to a vocational school, nothing? He got "bored" working at his parents's shop so with a high school education, no training, no plan, no money he just showed up in Tokyo and it's society's fault that nobody handed this guy a well-paying job?

Not to say things in Japan aren't a bit dire but if the subject of the article is any indication at least part of the problem is a surplus of listless young people with neither plans or skills. 9 man a month is not a lot of money, but at even a piddling 800 yen an hour that means he's only working about 25 hours a week. My wife's cousin is a high school dropout, he busted his ass for years as a truck driver, dishwasher and construction worker. He finally bought an old ramenya with his savings when he was in his early forties, and now ten years later he is quite well off, with a couple of yakiniku restaurants. If he lived his life like the subject of this article, he probably would be homeless by now.

The race can go to the swift OR the steady depending on the distance one is willing to traverse, but with some of these people it's like they aren't even showing up at the starting line. I'm not saying everyone can be successful but I don't see a shred of evidence this guy is trying hard and failing, just failing.

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Heres the big question, Why are such low wages allowed in Japan? Is taking advantage of people in ridiculous ways not illegal? Whats wrong with people? In particular whats wrong with the government and why dont they stop this? Better yet they should put it on the news so the rest of the country has an idea and then they can say "so desu ne."

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Y'all seem to be picking on Taro SixPack here without looking at the numbers; his and her kind, the Working Poor, work and they work hard at low-paying jobs. They are not on welfare or trying to cheat Nisegaijin out of his hard-earned yen. The point this article was trying to make and y'all missed was - The Size of the Working Poor Class is Increasing! Getting bigger! If the size gets big enough, Nisegaijin and others of his ilk will have more than welfare cheats to worry about. (And no one's mentioned Yamaguchi who has a college degree and 10 months experience as an accountant and couldn't find a job.)

And why should society worry about these obvious losers who don't even consume in a month what Nisegaijin and the rest of us consume in a day? Because they - the working poor - are part of society. We should help them get the education and/or experience they need to improve their lot. (If they want to. No need to force someone to study English or anything else if they don't want to.) And buy more! Or at least have more babies.

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Education is the key to a successful life. But not the type we traditionally think about - reading, writing, history, math and science.

I'm talking about the mindset that teaches an individual to love learning rather than feel education is a means to an end. While it is that...it is much more.

I'm talking about the mindset that teaches every child how to work with and manipulate his/her world through core competence.

We should learn how to make money and how money works and can grow, from grade school onward.

We should learn how to repair and build the things which addict us in our rush to consume.

We should learn that an education is a neverending joy.

We should learn to delay gratification or have have our privileges taken away from us as a reminder of how grateful we should be.

Why is it that schools don't teach us to be rich internally and externally?

Why is it that ninety percent of the wealth of the world is controlled by less than 5% of the population?

Why do we sell a failed education policy as a mainstream avenue to success?

Yes, the government must intervene to restructure education systems to encourage thinking rather than random brave waves.

Yes, the government should intervene full force and emphasize that my piece of the pie needn't be smaller; we just need to create a bigger pie based on real rather than phantom value-added services(such as security houses are notorious for providing).

This Japanese man was sold a bill of goods that did not match his interest and ability. Japan is a sink or swim society because the price of conformity is that you must stop thinking and get busy. By doing so, you never have a chance to develop possibility thinking.

Too many people get this Japanese guy's story wrong and look down at him. The greatest leaders in business and commerce have arisen Lazarus-like after hitting rock bottom.

Rather than look down at this guy as a bum, you might want to wish you were him. Why? Because the only way he can pull himself up will be to think and do.

If we are not growing, we are dieing. That Japanese man is in a much better position to grow and thrive than his critics who feel cool and smug because they have some income and comfort.

We only condemn the downtrodden and the poor because of a poverty of ideas and an uneasiness when we see a world of despair which is uncomfortable to ponder.

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Finally a story that tells it like it is ! Most recent OECD rankings places Japan at a solid #4 in terms of poverty levels by member nations (the worlds wealthiest 30). I tend to believe that the Japan is actually closer to #1 as the data focuses on "households" and not "adults". The number of people over 18, working, and still living at home is much higher here in Japan than any other country in the world. As this article states, the Japanese can't afford to leave home, can't get married, can't afford kids, and are slowly but surely destroying their nation from the inside out.

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Can't he go back to his family in inaka and work at his parent's store? Got bored and went to Tokyo to make more money... Christ, how many times have I heard that. Honestly I get tired of hearing sob stories such as this when others are out there busting their asses to make ends meet. If the guy get 600 an hour (illegal I think) he's working 40 hours. I work more than that all the time and I know plenty of gaijin who do PT work ontop of their FT jobs.

The chick went to uni and could get a job? Could be because her standards are too high? Honestly I have no idea how many times I've heard people say they couldn't find work but actually it was because they refused jobs like working at McDonalds or a conbini.

Japanese folks, seriously, when will you take some responsibility for yourseleves and your situations?

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tmarie, not everyone has a nice farm home out in the countryside to go home to.

Not everyone moved to Tokyo because they got bored of their town out in the sticks. Not everyone has parents that ever loved, or even cared about them. Not everyone even has parents. Some people have parents that are in worse state than themselves.

Many companies (yes, including Mcdonalds) refuse to take on full time employees, as this would burden them with social security and workers insurance, etc, etc, costs. They prefer the disposable "part-timer" who is only entitled to 30 hours of paid employment a week.

I'm sure some people are lazy, some are just not smart when it comes to making choices. Some are are fatalistic underachievers, some are just socially inept, some genuinely have a low IQ....

This however, is not the majority of the "Working Poor".

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So he or she can't work two PT jobs to make ends meet? Sorry but give me a break. Comments like "I gave up on getting a TV" make me roll my eyes.

HE decided to leave inaka because he was "bored" not because his parents chucked him out. Had the story been that Taro's parents died, he grew up in an orphange, had no education I would feel sorry for him - or her - but this isn't the case. Did you not notice there was no mention of hours worked?

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On the same note; I'd like to hear people who say that "life is what you make of it" and other motivational feel-good BS say that to a starving third-world orphan.

Sure, tell him that one day he can be an astronaut, or a politician, a movie star or football ace. I'll make it easier, try telling him that he just might get to eat something tomorrow. The reality is that some people just have no chance. For the have-mores to exist, the have-nots must also.

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tmarie, maybe this dude is lazy or just naive, but some people just have no chance, no support, and no hope.

You just never hear of them, because it hits too close to home.

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University/college educated people shouldnt be working in jobs that have "poverty class" pay. Thats just dumb. There should be reponsibility on the government and company to provide jobs for graduates. Why does the education industry focus so much on making itself a business? I find that very corrupt.

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Pointofview, that happens everywhere. What more do you want schools to do? They already do a lot to find their students jobs - much more than universities in other countries. A degree here only means that mommy and daddy were able to pay for their child's school fees, not that these folks learned anything.

Self responsibility. The faster the Japanese learn that, the better this country will become.

Urans, close to home? What are you talking about? These people are complaining about not having TV for god's sake. I certainly feel sorry for the homeless folks I see that are obviously sick and need care but I don't feel sorry for a bunch of folks who leave the comforts of a home because they are bored or can't afford TV.

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Noborito

Lot's of ALT jobs now are very very cheap. The salary for that kind of job hasn't increased in 15 years. People 15 years ago were making 200,000 to 300,000 yen a month. With skyrocketing prices, teaching will be given back to the Japanese market with a few western faces. Most private direct hire schools pay 400,000 yen or higher. Most out sourcing companies are charging 400,000 a month or higher and paying their teachers 60% or even 50% of the fee they charge. It's almost criminal that they take so much off the top. Some profit is fine, but 12,000 yen a day then charging the customer 20,000 or more. Bring back the system where schools and labor boards contract directly and pay the teacher their value. But those days won't happen until schools really care about western teachers and investigate the fees teachers are getting.

YES!!

Moderator: Back on topic please. The story is not about teachers.

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tmarie, I meant to say that while we condemn the lazy underachievers who make obviously poor choices, the genuinely unfortunate make us feel rather uncomfortable.

Though people wallow in self-righteous superiority while deriding someone foolish enough to place himself in his current situation, the genuinely unfortunate underprivileged trigger a different reaction.

Guilt and regret for not being able or too selfish to help. Sympathy while feeling relieved that it is not yourself in such an unfortunate situation.

Hopelessness and loss of belief in fairness. The world isn't fair, we know this but rarely admit it unless we feel we are the ones being wronged.

We laugh at and criticize people like the man in this article to feel like we are superior. However, when confronted with the truly hopeless and unfortunate, we don't know how to react.

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I'm certainly not laughing at this man but I don't feel all that sorry for him because I work hard, have studied, continue to study... to make myself a better person so I don't have to reply on handouts or pity. It seems this man in question hasn't got a clue that that is what it takes.

As for truly hopeless, I react with pity. Buying a sandwich or Big Issue and donating clothes. I have a lot of respect for the guys that sell the Big issue because THEY are out there busting their butts and not asking for pity. Shame this young guy doesn't have the same work ethics.

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Here's the sad fact - in order to start on the road to getting a decent education in Japan (which means attending a good University) you have to have parents who can afford juku. Japanese schools are all about teaching kids to be Japanese. 'Wa' is the most important thing - all else is secondary.

Lots of kids can afford to go to juku - and so it's the freeter life for them.

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“Sometimes I ask myself what I’m living for,” Murasawa said. To make ends meet, he’s given up dining out, drinking, smoking, going to the movies or buying CDs, clothes and magazines.

He will more than likely do something to end it.

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@nisegaijin

Rich people become rich because they work hard and do important things. Why should they be giving away what is rightfully theirs. Rich people do the world a favor by employing others and giving them opportunity to get rich. under free market, there would be no need for labor laws because job market would be as large as any other market.

Rich people become rich, in the main, because their either adept at screwing over other people - or their daddy or granddaddy was. They screw their workers over health insurance, pensions, and working conditions. They pay off politicians so they can make even bigger bucks - and when it all goes belly-up they saunter back to the pollies for a handout.

There's a definite strand of thought today that sees the enrepreneur as the pinnacle of society - that the MBA is the key to life. MBAs got us into this current mess.

Don't like your conditions? Just quit and find another job.

And how are people going to find a better job when all the workers are getting screwed over?

Now don't get me wrong - I belive that capitalism has a strong role to play in society - but the unbridled 'every man for himself' variety has no place in a democratic society - as it inevitable seeks to twist the laws and institutions of that society to serve only the capitalists.

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Nisegaijin asks, "What do derivatives traders have to do with a lazy bum who can't find a decent job in TOKYO?"

Let me explain. Relatively little welfare goes to those who really need it. Most welfare is, in fact, corporate welfare that goes to support companies such as the banks, mortgage companies and securities companies that have brought about the current economic downturn.

The United States has always talked about a free market, but never believed in one. Why should an American company be allowed to set up a business in a developing country but an uneducated food stall operator in that country not have equal access to set up in America.

The poor do need help. If they are not given help, we risk them helping themselves. Helping themselves to what is not theirs is what I mean by that, but luckily there is not too much of that in this country.

"Rich people become rich because they work hard and do important things," is not true either. Most rich people inherit wealth. Many others, but not all, become rich through some kind of dishonesty.

Although Nisegaijin claims to support a free market, I doubt he approves of labour having the freedom to organise and unionise and force decent wages and conditions out of the system.

Moderator: Back on topic please. The subject is Japan's working poor.

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It's really scary.i watched this NHK video and I was terrified. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj9N52lRTAQ

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Wow, now Japan has joined the rest of the world.

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I think that the article is suggesting that urban poverty is becoming an alarming trend in Japan. If I can remember what I have read correctly, Japanese government is in a pretty difficult situation to rectify the problems in the country.

Their economic policies are mainly aligned to support the big corporations and multinationals. They have to constantly keep their interest rates low to ensure that these companies have access to cheap credit and at the same time maintaining a weak yen to let these large exporters maintain price competitiveness. This has erroded the living standard of the general public because the low interest rates have reduced the return on household savings while the weak yen have made imported food stuff and energy (fuel) expensive.

There is also this reluctance on the part of the credit and capital market in Japan to promote entrepreneurship and to grow their small and medium size enterprises. As such the level of new investment and job creation is quite stagnant.

I also agree that the growing number of part time jobs will seriously limit the ability of the workforce to acquire useful skills and this may turn out to be a big hidden cost to the economy in the future.

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hard to save for college when you can barely make ends meet. -->an area where the Gov should offer incentives where people are needed (health etc).

And when did Alts start making more than dancing monkeys?

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In a country that boasts the world’s longest-living population, where young women with Louis Vuitton bags crowd the sidewalks, Murasawa’s is a voice of hopelessness and despair—a voice increasingly heard in Japan.

who wear Luis Vuitton clothes? the very rich people,,and come together with a bentley,or a nice range rover,,why someone has to be overworking to buy a Louis Vuitton bag,instead to put this money in a bank account and make plans for the future... i see this is the peak problem in japan,,when i read shes working and she cannot buy an tv set..please there is plenty second hand shop in japan,people has to start step by step in life not living a parachute way of life, even in Europe i see people try to reach a better way of life,step by step,,i remenber my ex-japanese girlfriend,she came to europe,Germany and she was making joke about the way people spend the money here. thats is the first problem in japan people want to show and be bragging about they have,,and thats a very low kind menthality.i remenber when i was working in a bank in my earlier´s 20 i was buying brand clothes and dinner outside like crazy,paying friend´s problems,at the end i lose my job.what happens no money to spend,friends gone,and the worst,a close full with expensive clothes and no money in my pocket,.i learn to do it step by step,i finish the university and start to make good money but i learn my lesson at that time,now im 38 and i see with plenty hapiness the mistake i made in the past.

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I think Japan is just falling into line with "Western" nations. Japan had it pretty good for nearly 50 years, and with the Cold War finished they have trouble keeping up their extravagant lifestyle as American money just pour into the country now like it used to.

Combine that with the nature of Japanese society (e.g. need good university to get a good job) and the tightening of the economy, things are bound to get hard.

In reality, what stops Murasawa from getting married? Absolutely nothing. What is stopping him is expectations - he thinks (and to a certain extent I agree) many Japanese girls expect a nice wedding at a wedding hall (which are expensive as we know). Most Japanese girls I know have told me that they would like to have a nice wedding ceremony. But if he finds the right girl, what is to stop them from just getting married down at their local ward/city office? Once again, absolutely nothing. It's just a matter of finding the right partner.

Back in my home country not everyone can afford a nice wedding, many people just get a civil one due to the cost. Back home not everyone has a good job. They manage life as best they can.

As mentioned in the article, "... Japan surged to wealth in the 80s". The 80s?? Wasn't that like nearly 20 or 30 years ago? Even from the 1950s after the war, Japan was rebuilding getting the economy underway again. The good times essentially rolled on from the mid-50s till the end of the Cold War (with a few hiccups namely the Oil shocks of the 70s and the end of the Bubble economy in the 90s).

The Japanese born after WW2 have no idea what it is like to poor as they've lived in the land of milk and honey for nearly 50 years. Things get a little tough and they look like they want to call it quits already.

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Well the miracle of Japan Inc. died with the bubble, this shouldn't be news. Japan has finally caught up with the US in a race to the bottom for the working poor. Patrick Smash: I would say you are right on in your annalysis.

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One of the more shocking things this article touches on is that apparently many of the working poor cannot afford to pay into the health care system. The evidence presented is only anecdotal and therefore useless. I do happen to understand the situation because I was there in my younger and less prosperous days in Japan. I had to pay it. Only there were months when I could not pay it. I wish someone would follow up this business. I know that day laborers are often deprived of social welfare and universal health care simply because they do not have permanent address. But this is different. I really want more information about this. Does Japan in fact not have universal health care after all?

This is an okay but not great article because it happens to rely way too much on anecdotes. While poignant, it is hard to impossible to verify the authenticity of anecdotes. What information it does present in terms of statistics is shocking enough.

I must point out that poverty in Japan in the midst of Japan's prosperity is not new. The Japanese countryside has always been semi-depressed (hence the huge migrations to the city centers). The collapse of industries like mining and shipbuilding has also created poverty. The Japanese day laborer is a national archetype. (Who knows why the sunflower is the symbol of the day laborer?) Also the underpaid temporary worker has long been with us. There are unions for temporary workers, who about a decade ago represented 17 percent of the workforce. (At that time the workers with so-called lifetime employment also equaled 17% of the workforce.) What should be apparent is that the condition of the Japanese working class has gotten worse. This is in part for the prolonged economic slump after the burst bubble and also in part because it is easier for the capitalists in this country to exploit people, in spite of the so-called labor shortage. Japanese companies have outsourced production to others countries (mainly Asia) where labor is cheaper and the LDP government has brought in foreign laborers, who are the first to be fired, as an article in the Japan Times noted.

I must note, in answer to certain posters, that I too "worked my ass off" to achieve the comfortable success that I have, and am still working "my ass off" as I write this. I do, however, admit that I had certain advantages, like an education and an extremely happy marriage to a bright Japanese woman. I can modestly claim to be not lacking in brains; but I have to admit that much of my success came about because of pure good luck. I do not think that I am different from most successful people.

I am saying all of this as a preface to the following: People who claim that poor people only have themselves to blame for their poverty are either grossly ignorant or dishonest. It is an old argument that is brought up by the right-wing types and it is bogus. Yes, I know the rags to riches tales--what is often missing in them is the element of blind luck.

Anyway, to be anecdotal--hey, this is free copy--there are plenty of "successful" people who are incompetent and lame-brained. I mean managers, public servants, doctors, teachers and, yeah, capitalists. I have had to deal with them all at some point in my life. There is no moral reason for them to be successful as there is for the poor person who hands out tissues for a living to be unsuccessful.

There is one thing I can say about Japan. In this conformist country once you are down it is very hard to get back up. If you fail to get a good post right out of high school you are probably going to be dead meat. University grads have a little more latitude but not that much. If the industry you have been working for all your life shuts down your chances of staying in a permanent hole are extremely good.

To once again use the elegant expression utilized by one poster, I am an old hand at working my ass off. I am in that way no different from the person whose job it is to hand me tissues as I pass on my way to work. Only I happen to get more goodies. I am also a Socialist. I believe we do not need the idle rich or CEOs. Workplace democracy would be better for all concerned. But if real socialism is not possible, then I am all for systems that have been influenced by socialism and social democracy--places like Canada, France, Scandinavia and the the like.

There is no excuse for anyone being poor in a country like Japan.

And since I have to "work my ass off" on a pretty steady basis, I must apologize in advance for the quick and dirty proofreading this missive is going to get from me.

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Being working poor means you have to be craftier than most people. I actually live well on less money. It's like a chess game. Align yourself to snatch up a better job, easy second job or better place to live (for less money) when the opportunity presents itself.

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Betting. I enjoyed your opinion. Brilliant view.... cheers.

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Adding to the posters experiences here; I too came from a poor family being raised by my dad's mother and sister. My grandmother used to make me my clothes for school. I almost fell after high school because I had no guidance. My aunt only had a 3rd grade education but one thing they did teach me is to work hard and discipline. I eventually began working at hospital after losing my mediocore job and doctors in training there somehow saw some potential in me. They incouraged me to go back to school and I did. I took some loans and finished. Now I have a Master's Degree in Geology and work for an oil/gas company. It was hard but I can say I'm the first in my family that has done it. I still have debt but I can afford to pay it with no ones help adn I am saving for retirement. I may have started later than most in the professional career path but I feel I am fortunate. That is one good thing about the American System, at any point in your life you have access to colleges and some assistance no matter your background. Japan can surely benefit by having a similar system.

I feel sorry for how desperate some fo these folks fee.

What government does when they give too many handouts is that they create a lazy society. People do not appreciate what they have and therefore do not contribute much.

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The working poor are easily dismissed as lazy and useless. But blame the companies for the dearth of good secure well paying jobs. And japan has no unions to speak of to fight for their cause. The poor will soon be "objects" of concern if they decide to no longer obey society's "rules" imposed on them by the elite. The rich can only keep their wealth with the agreement of the poor. French Revolution anyone??

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I am one of these poor person's I have never recieved a raise in three years.

How can a single person save money in Japan ?

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Poverty is not always bad. It's a great motivator. One reason Japan became one of the richest countries in the world was because they had a lot of poverty in the past driving them.

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In my knowlege, Japanese government spent a lot of money for providing foreign aids in the past. It was very good for diplomacy. In the reality, Japan is no longer prosperous enough to do it anymore. It is time to look after own citizens for the relief of poverty. Many elderly lost their life time saving in the stock market crunch. They become helpless. Government also allowed many foreigners to come and work here.

It was a double edged sword. For highly skilled people such as professors, scientists & Computer Programmers contributed the economy. Low skilled people from oversea drove down the wages & took the jobs away from locals. These people are cheaper to hire & fire. No wonder employers took advantages from it. I am not the anti immigrants. However immigration need to concern about the labour market and economic circumstances. Charities start at home. Besides that Japan has very limited natural resources and land.

Extreme poverty will create social unrest, chaos and instablity. Confucious said "Every person belong to the harmonious public society. Poor & weak needed to be helped". Even somone with the uni degree can not get the job easily right now. The reason is demand and supply. Japan need to climb the ladder of new technologies. Such as biotech, nano tech & genetic engineering. Japan needs to find the sustainable new market for exports.

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Poverty is not always bad. It's a great motivator

...of violence, family abuse, suicide, crime...

Poverty certainly isn't anything to celebrate.

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In one of the world’s wealthiest nations, Junpei Murasawa is a poor man.

Concepts like GDP and GNP are not measures of the mean wealth of individuals in any one country, certainly not indicators of mean well being. The reality of these labels is they are taken to mean more than they were originally intended, and this is usually intentionally for political reasons.

While Japan may be considered a 'rich country' still, it is not wealth that is spread amongst the population. It is in the hands of a very few who own the corporations and who affect most directly the running of the country itself. Reality is such that Japan's vast middle class was a creation that could only be sustained for a short period of time, from the 1960's through until he 1990's. This is not so different to most of the industrially developed economies.

The middle class has been shrinking across the world for a long while, and in Japan the pace of the shrinkage increased rapidly with the privatization program pushed by Junichiro Koizumi's government. Legislation that saw increased entrenchment of the permanent workforce and their replacement with part-time contracts, and the encouragement of the 'freeter' phenomenon has resulted in thousands /millions of the population dropping out of the category of 'middle class' and into that of the 'working poor'.

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What the world needs is hope and change. Redistribute the wealth. In other words Barack Obama.

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@jeancolmar

Very well put!

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Moderator, please explain why are you removing this post? It's is strictly on topic.

Moderator: You are on the wrong thread. This is about Japan, not the U.S.

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jeancolmar,

I have to disagree with you. Health care is very affordable for poor. I think he only has to pay 12000 per year to get insurance. The problem comes in when he has to pay for hospial visitis. I think Japan could do a lot better with privitized health care. I remember, when I lost my job a few years ago, I went to register for kukumin hoken, and they were charging me 40000 per month!!! I wanted to get out it, cuz my dentist visits would be cheaper if i din't have to pay insurance at all and just paid nominal sum.

Anyway, back on topic. jeancolmar, can you explain how do you see one's economic misfortunes as responsibility of someone else? I don't get it!! The guy in the article is just lazy. My gf with no experience and mediocre education, went out and got a temp job at media company that paid over 200000 and then she negotiated a raise. If she can, why this guy can't?

Fog God's sake he can work at konbini and get more than he gets now. He has to put more hours in! Find second job or something. There are so many opportunites out there. Sitting there and whining about how broke you are is not gonna get you anywhere.

I agree however, that Japan is not good with second chances. It's more social thing that government responsiblity. But again, as far as I know the guy didn't do anything wrong, so it's not about second chance, it's about being pro-active.

Finally your refference to communism is wrong. If Japan were communist, we would all be like that guy. Main aspect of communism is abolition of property rights. Poor people blaming the rich is where it all begins.

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@nisegaijin

So 'every man (and woman) for themselves eh?

No thanks.

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@nisegaijin

Main aspect of communism is abolition of property rights. Poor people blaming the rich is where it all begins.

Really? Rice people exploiting the poor is where communism begins.

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That should be 'rich people', not 'rice people' in my last post.

However, I will say that I'm against rice people exploiting the poor too...

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First off, I said I am for "socialism" not "Communism." I also said that in the absence of the pure form I was for systems that were somehow influenced by socialism.

I too found the business about not having social insurance odd. It is still required, is it not? Here is where I'd like expert information.

I believe that poverty is essentially systemic, not personal. There are indeed people who end up poor because of wrong choices, but their chances of being permanently in poverty are cut if there are enough safety nets.

The surge of homelessness and working poor people has overwhelmed Japan. The system does not know what to do about it and pretty much lets it go.

The Little Engine that Could anecdotes are fine and dandy as long as you realize that they are stories about good luck and nothing else. There are lots of anecdotes about hardworking people who have no luck for reasons beyond their control.

And thanks for the good word, Starviking.

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This is why this country is great for business owners. If I want to have some help I just can hire students for a few hours, give them 850yen/h and say Thank You. This is great country for easy exploiting people without any consequences which would be imposed to companies in Europe. As someone mentioned here, there are no labor union to protect temp workers. GoJ make law (polices) good for those who "contribute" to them. Business as usual here. As a good example I added link to new legislation from EU. Japan should learn something.

http://euobserver.com/851/26981

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I'm disgusted at some the comments here. Just ask yourself this: what's the difference between yourself and a homeless person - a couple of paychecks maybe? If you lose your job on Monday, are you sure you'll find another one? Will it pay as much? I've been in Yamaguchi's situation and I share her anxiety. I will never, ever, take a half-decent job for granted and neither should any of you.

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rurika exactly, I totally agree with what you say. All these "I'm all right Jack" comments are nauseating. Especially now, anyone can lose their job anyday and find themselves on the street. Have some sympathy for christ's sake. And if the poor fight back against the system with riots and civil unrest, all the smug people will not walk the streets safely anymore.

Jean Colmar your comments are always excellent and a good read. You are a professional journalist I wonder??

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Note to Mr. Murasawa: Move back in with your parents in Yamaguchi, and eventually take over the family store.

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I enjoyed this article and many of the comments (not all). Especially Jean Colmar's - some persuasive arguments for socialism (note: DIFFERENT to communism)

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I spent 6 mothns without proper job, just doing crap IT projects. Almost saw my life flushed down the toilet as I finally got a job 1 month before my visa expiration so don't you dare telling me about morals. Did I blame society or government for it? Hell no!

WMD, if poor start riots and unrests like they did in Russia in 1917, I will arm myself and fight these bastards till I die.

I stand my ground: 99% of all poor are poor because of fault of their own and should not be burden of others. For 1% who really need it, charity should do the trick. I would contribute if I was not taxed to oblivion by this government.

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Almost saw my life flushed down the toilet as I finally got a job 1 month before my visa expiration

Well well. Looks like someone sobered up enough to compete with the other pigeons.

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I want to agree with you nisegaijin. Some childern were killed by their own parents. Because they were born being poor. It was totally their fault. Their parents are innocent. At least you have dutiful and caring parents who raise you. When you were baby, you were depending on charity at that time. When you are old & frail, you may need the charity again. It is a life cycle.

As you said, 99% of poor are poor because of fault of their own. Some eldery lost their life time saving in the stock market crunch. It was their fault & we better let them starve. We do not need to look after the sick or disable people. Let them beg on the roads.

If you get a car accident & amputated, you can not expect the tax payer hand outs. You can go back to where u come from. Do not burden the society. Something in life are beyond our control. If you do not wish to help disadvataged that is fine. However you can not blame someone for their misfortune. Congratulation for your incredible achievement! You are someone special. I wish I am smart like you.

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I want to agree with you nisegaijin. Some childern were killed by their own parents. Because they were born being poor. It was totally their fault. Their parents are innocent. At least you have dutiful and caring parents who raise you. When you were baby, you were depending on charity at that time. When you are old & frail, you may need the charity again. It is a life cycle.

Well, we have social programs everywhere and are they helping? What are you saying? that we need even further distribution of wealth? What do you think will happen? My point is that 99% of people getting handouts are the lazy ones, those who choose to sit on their bottoms and do nothing. 1% are the ones who need those handouts are suffering because of them, not because they aren't taking enough from the rich.

Some eldery lost their life time saving in the stock market crunch. It was their fault & we better let them starve.

This was their choice to invest. I don't agree with golden parachutes either, and I think assets of the bust companies should be distrubuted along the clients, not executives.

We do not need to look after the sick or disable people. Let them beg on the roads. If you get a car accident & amputated, you can not expect the tax payer hand outs. You can go back to where u come from. Do not burden the society. Something in life are beyond our control.

It should be the matter of choice. Those who want to look after them can voluteer and donate. Government run social programs are not aimed at people who really need it. In addition, I must add, that for some reason you insit that these less fortunate people have zero responsibility and we should cash out because of their own fault. There are things called insurance companies that give you huge compensation if something happens to you. They cost peanuts but yet everyone chooses not to buy their policies. I am enrolled into 2 of them for vehicle and life, and i would gladly substitute crap government health insurance with a private one if i was allowed to do that, but government chooses to invade my freedom and tell me how to live by offering a very poor product.

If you do not wish to help disadvataged that is fine. However you can not blame someone for their misfortune. Congratulation for your incredible achievement! You are someone special. I wish I am smart like you.

I would love to help, but government is already taking that much so the amount i can donate is very limited. After all I am doing the responsible thing and saving money before starting family. For some reason many of the poor do not do this. No I am not special and your insulting ironic remarcs are less than impressive. In anycase I am just a believer in freedom of choice and free market capitalism where people are aware of their responsibilities. What is so difficult about this?

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The most interesting thing about this thread is the number of personal tales of poverty and unemployment. A recent posting by nisegaijin caught my eye. This is a poster who was thrown into the social snake pit of unemployment and managed to slither out. It should surprise no one that a person like this might have little compassion for his former fellow suffers. They were his enemies while he was trying to escape. Poverty and unemployment creates more monsters than saints. The "Wretched of the Earth" stuff is nice for slogans and inspiring songs, but it is most likely not the down and outs who will bring change but that fairly stable but dissatisfied part of the working class.

But if the day that the truly down and out people organize and shake the foundations of this rotten society ever comes it will be a day of miracles. That will mean that they have somehow transcended the snake pit and embraced a higher conscience. It could happen in Japan for all we know.

Thank you for the kind words, WMD and stanoue. Must add that I am only a professional journalist in my dreams. In my waking life I'm an ordinary joe just trying to make sense of things.

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nisegajin

I am sorry to hear that my comments insulted you. Actually I just praised your super wisdom & success. The rich will be rich. The poor will be poor. However the rich needs poor and poor needs rich too. Free market & free capitalism was a fairy tale which was history now. Wall street whiz kids got rich with other people hard earned cash. When the time was good, they prasied themselves for their management. When the time is bad, they just seeked the handouts from corrupted officials. Sub prime morgage crisis created the default loans which many never recover. US banks lost the investors confidence.

Lenders did not concern about the high risks of reckless lending. The result was a liquidation of banks. Banks do not trust each other anymore and easy credit become history. CEOs got huge pay out regardless of their betrayal of trusts to investors. Regardless of poor return & poor performance. They screwed other people savings for their interest.

After the Asia fiancial crisis, many asian countries made the prudential regulation for monitoring the public finance. Compare with states, their financial system is heathier & well regulated. Some insurance companies in states got broke and they can no longer pay the compensation for policy holders.

For that cases, policy holders will seek the help from tax payers too. Nothing in the life is guranteed. Market like a wild beast. Sometimes, it can be very wild. Controlling the beast is necessary. Druing the Asia financial crisis, Malaysia capped their currency with US dollars. They restricted the time limit of investment term. Indonesia & Thai requested IMF loan & followed free market & free capitalism rules. The former recovered shortly. The latter got social unrest, povety & high unemployments. For that case, poors & social unrest were created by bad directions, policies & advices.

Later on IMF admitted, their policies were very harsh & making market out of control. No system in this world is perfect. Socialism did not work. Free capitalism and free market did not work either! Civic society was not uncommon in Asia history. We care the sick, disabled & frail eldely. No one or no system can change our traditon. It is our way of life. If u live in that society, you have to adapt it. We can not adapt your wisdom.

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Capitalism is definitely an ironic thing, when China partially embraced capitalism she was able to lift a huge portion of its population from abject poverty in a very short time span. But as evident in many developed countries, when capitalism was left to function fully on its own it will almost always create an increasing divide between the haves and the have not. It is quite obvious that such a widening divide is not sustainable in the longer term.

As mentioned in the article, the root cause of the rising working poor in Japan was the bursting of the economic buble some 20 years ago. In its effort to rescue to floundering economy back then, the government took on massive debt to pump prime the economy. Unfortunately the intented return from this big investment did not materialise. Since the economy did not perform well, the government wasn't able to collect enough tax revenues to pay off its debt, and that is why the tax rate in Japan has to remain high. That of course mean that the general public could not enjoy a higher spending power.

The other reason for the diminishing household income is the low interest paid to savings. The government really couldn't raise interest rates too much because that will cause the value of those government bonds (issued to finance the pump priming) to drop and cause some kind of systemic disaster in the financial market.

Then there are also issues related to the long delays in cleaning up bank balance sheets, overly conservative capital and credit markets, aging population, growing risk avoidance in business and a general pessimism among the people. As I understand, all these in some ways contributed to the growing poverty in Japan.

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No system in this world is perfect. Socialism did not work. Free capitalism and free market did not work either!

Athletes, I fully agree with your above opinion. Some times, the problem really isn't so much with the systems, it is the people directing and operating the systems who are creating all these problems.

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555Book;

China partially embraced capitalism she was able to lift a huge portion of its population from abject poverty in a very short time span. But as evident in many developed countries, when capitalism was left to function fully on its own it will almost always create an increasing divide

Please - China is hardly the example of a country where capitalism is unbridled. The gap between haves and have-nots there is way worse than in any "capitalist" Western country.

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This article, like may others in the news, shows that Japan is a country and society very much in transition, and a decline is only one possible outcome. The bubble bursting was only one trigger for this and the one that gets the most press, but the end of the Cold War was just as big and has had a significant and ongoing impact. Given the way the global economy is tanking, Japan's economy will also worsen but less so (in relative) terms than other countries, including its neighbours.

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I don't work in Japan. I started my own company, made a fully automated internet business and pick up a check every month. AND I DON'T SPEAK JAPANESE. If I can do it here anyone can. Young Japanese and the Japanese Government should focus on developing the entrepreneurial spirit that once made Japan so great. I went to a venture capital seminar that said VC is 3 times underfunded in Japan. That means if I want 100 yen I get 30. In contrast America is 3 times over funded. If I want to start a business and ask for a dollar I can get 3. The biggest problem is that Japan has endorsed a strict hierarchal slavitude system for thousands of years, whether it be their own citizens or foreign nationals. The governments recent labor laws have simply reverted the country to the way it has always been throughout time. The elite completely exploit the weak. Japanese are the best in the world at creating systems and processes to deliver excellent service. If they spoke English and new how to negotiate well with other nationalities in Particular lead, with their systems they could create some of the best global service businesses on earth. Look at Toyota's service model. They win on the efficiency of their after sales service. Hands down. Japan needs to develop young global entrepreneurs. It is so easy to do. Do it now.

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Bored with that life, Murasawa came to Tokyo two years ago in hope of landing a well-paying job.

how did he imagine that just having experience working in a vege shop would land him a good job in Tokyo? Go home buddy. Inherit the vege shop and settle for your lot in life.

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there is working poor in every country and these people deserve help more, not giving the rich more tax breaks

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clayton88, haven't you thought that if rich didn't get more tax breaks, most of working poor wouldn't be able to work at all?

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