Japan: Generational Gap of Hope in Tough Economy

Japan’s younger working generation are leading a very different life from their parents, who prospered in the ‘Bubble Economy’ [en, ja] or temporary boom of the mid-1980s and early 1990s. This generation consumes less, works under stricter conditions, and have less hope in their future.

Throughout the temporary boom, the society was eager to consume day and night, and people worked to make quick money, often skipping on sleep. Real estate, cars and other luxury items flied off shelves; land prices skyrocketed, and the “money management” boom emerged.

After the land market burst [ja] triggered by economic chaos, like many other countries, Japan has been struggling with economic depression, financial problems and an unforeseen future.

Image by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmgimages/">rmgimages</a>under CC BY-SA 2.0

Image by Flickr user rmgimages under CC BY-SA 2.0

This blog post [ja] written by neji-ko, translated in its entirety with permission, reminds us of the uneasiness of Japan's younger generation, now in their 20s and 30s, towards their parents generation and the society built by them, during the bubble economy [ja]:



I, a colleague in his 50s and another who is 27-years-old went to a pub one day. I was astonished by the difference in thinking because of the huge generation gap with the elder man. He said he worked for himself in his early life and indulged as much as he wanted.  After he joined our company a few years ago, he was surprised to see his salary slip. “Is this a child's allowance or something?” he asked. “You guys, forget this low-paying job. There must be other better options,” he added. However we, the 27-year-old and myself the 29-year-old, replied, “No, no, no!” His wife sighed while looking at their soon-to-marry daughter, contently wearing a promise ring. “She looks so pitiful wearing a ring with such a tiny diamond. I can't show her my ring,” she admitted. The wife wore a ring that her husband bought, with a diamond huge enough to hide her finger.


This guy might be the same generation as my father, but the gap between parents and their children is quite troublesome. Elder men in their 50s and we 30-somethings have a completely different outlook to the world.

Image by Flickr user hatash CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


I work full-time, with overtime compensation, but may leave the office on-time, depending on how much work I get done. I get two full-days off every week, with up to 12 days paid leave every year, two bonuses every year which is equivalent to six-months pay, salary increments, maternity and childcare leave is available, and working on a reduced schedule when a child is young is also an option. I don’t know anyone among my friends or acquaintances working under better terms.


Some get better pay but work longer, or the job itself is easy but is part-time or offers no holidays, etc… So I think I’m working in the best environment. Maybe women working at major corporations have better working conditions  but I have no such friend and have no idea…


And to top it off, our land is now contaminated by radioactive material [en, ja]. I had not read such a scenario in the Manga comics [en, ja]. The bar for “rearing and nurturing a child” has been raised further. Our life is entering a harder level [like in a video game]. For Japanese in their 30s, we can hardly aspire for a better life in Japan, or even maintaining the current standard of living. It's unclear whether a child can grow up healthy even if we manage to have one. It's unclear whether I will live a full healthy life. In fact, there is nothing positive, unless one ignores the reality. I bet [Japanese] in their 50s or 60s can never feel like that. So they are living a happy life…


I'm not sure, but the society may be changing, and I might dare to see some hope in Japan's situation in the future, which is interesting. It's encouraging that the PM [ja] (who resigned in August 2011) has started calling for “denuclearization” of the nuclear-centric power industry, which was once strongly promoted as a national policy. Even if it is just talk, the very fact is that there is a possibility, is encouraging. Although my life ahead is completely uncertain, I can now value my life more, at least something interesting is going on, right in front of my eyes!

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