My precarious future and minimum expectations of my future

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

Anonymous student post

Some people say that college days are summer vacation in life. Now, we, college students, have enough time to do various thing: such as study, part-time job, volunteer activity, finding lover, enjoying a club activity, and travel. However, I sometimes grow uneasy about my future: How will be my future? What kind of job will I take? Can I get married? Is my anxiety related to the social situation in Japan?

I believe that there are very strong relations between young people’s uneasiness about their future and current precarious situations in Japanese society. In the bubble economy period, young people could more easily get jobs and decide their future course, because the national economic condition was better. Yet now, owing to deregulation, privatization and the bursting of the bubble (Allison 2013), the circumstances are completely different.

I was born in 1994, after the bubble, and am now 21 years old, but I have not decided what I want to do in the future, especially my occupation. Actually I wanted to advance the science course since I entered this university, so I do not know particularly what kind of job can we, the students of this faculty or this university, take. Even though we have much greater choice of occupation than before, the employment situation is not good. It makes us young people keenly realize the importance of deciding our lifetime occupation. Maybe I will take a stable straight road because I want to realize secure position, although it gets much more difficult.

For me, marriage is a more difficult problem because I had never thought about it deeply. Meanwhile, some of my old friends, who are just my age, have already gotten married, and what is more, had children. Most of them are high school graduates and are now working. I sometimes worry which is happier or better for Japanese society. However, I vaguely suppose that I will be married before I am about 30 years old and have children before I am about 35 years old. There is no ground, but I think I am an ordinary man, and this is the present average (Japanese Cabinet Office 2012). I like children and am interested in child raising, so however busy my job will be, I will be ready to help my wife in child raising. Although I can have expectation like this, precarious situation in Japanese society makes the realization of my expectation harder. In “muen shakai“, the relationless society, it is difficult even to find a spouse and to do child raising normally.

In conclusion, I sometimes grow uneasy about my future but I had never thought about it concretely. Thanks to this occasion, I have my expectations for my future. However, it is very precarious and it is inevitably minimized by the social situation. I believe this tendency is not only for me but also for all present young people in greater or lesser degrees. As Allison (2013) described, there are still many problems in Japanese society. These are the negative harvest of Japanese history since 1945, when Japan became the defeated nation of WW2. Most of the problems are now old-fashioned for current society and get maladies. We have to improve them for both Japanese future and our bright future.

References

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Japanese Cabinet Office (2012) Japanese child-child raising white paper

 

 

 

 

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To deal with the precariousness

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

Anonymous student post

As Anne Allison described in her book Precarious Japan (2013), contemporary Japan is unstable and filled with anxiety. I have felt the precariousness of Japan and I have been struggling to decide a certain future plan to survive in the precarious social condition since I was a high school student. Though I have not reached any concrete future plan yet, I have found the way to help myself. It is having many qualification and much specialized knowledge.

Today’s labor system in Japan is changing rapidly. After the collapse of economic bubble, the employment situation is becoming more flexible and more unstable. According to Allison (2013), one-third of labor forces were registered as irregular workers in 2012. Besides, the former protection for workers of “Japan inc.” such as a permanent employment system and a seniority-based wage system almost broke down and a new strict evaluating system started to be introduced in many companies (Allison, 2013). Considering this situation, Japanese companies may come to require people who can be immediately effective like the company in the western countries, and all workers will be exposed to a harder competition in the near future. In my opinion, to survive in this hard competition and to get close to stability, I must have expert knowledge or be qualified as a specialist. Certain techniques are also helps for improving career.

So I want to have some qualification or learn specialized knowledge in the near future and get a specialist job. Now I am interested in some kind of qualification. However, these are much different from what I am majoring in. Moreover, I do not have enough time to study for the qualifying examination now. When I really try to obtain the qualification, I may study in two schools or enter a professional school after graduating from Ritsumeikan university. However, it costs much money and time. So it increases the burden of my family because I cannot spend so much time to earn money now. Therefore I still hesitate to take action and keep this idea to myself.

In the contemporary precarious society, there are few absolute things. For example, it is thought that public employees is stable. However, because of aging society, tax revenue will decrease more and it may influence the stability of public employees. Therefore I think it is better to having means to earn money as much as possible.

The generation that doesn’t have dreams

by Misora Ohara

I was born after 1991, when the bubble economy burst. We called the bad situation of Japanese economy after the bubble burst “Heisei Fukyo (recession in Heisei).” In addition, sometimes people called children who were born under the Heisei Fukyo the generation that doesn’t have dreams. I was born in this very generation. Therefore, some adults who especially experienced the bubble economy may regard me as a student who doesn’t know dreams. However, I don’t think that we don’t have dreams. This is because I have a dream, and my friends also have their dreams.

In my opinion, the reason why adults call us the generation that doesn’t have dreams is not the fact that students actually don’t have dreams but the difference of the way of thinking about dreams. Adults who experienced the bubble economy think dreams as the situation that people can gain whatever they want, especially expensive material things, such as cars and houses. Also, they know how to get everything what they want and how happy they are after they got everything.

On the other hand, we tend to regard dreams as future plans or jobs. For our generation, dreams are for the future. This is because whenever we talked about dreams in school or family, we were always asked “What do you want to be in the future?” It means that dreams stand for what we want to do as jobs in the future, for us. In addition, the future plans and jobs are based on stability. This is because we only have the experience of recession in Japan. We don’t know how satisfied many Japanese were in the bubble economy. We only heard the story at that time from our parents or teachers.

Besides, after we were born, a kind of track was already established. It means that the course from birth to death was already decided. For example, many students tend to think that they should go to a good high school, enter an intelligent university and get good jobs of famous companies for the high salary. As a matter of fact, in my experience, I haven’t met any friends who want to be comedians or artists. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to get those kinds of jobs. However, almost all of us easily think that it is impossible.

In conclusion, the reason why we are called the generation who don’t have dreams is the difference of views about dreams. Actually, we have dreams. However, the dreams are different from what adults indicate. This is because we hope the steadiness for the future.

Balancing career and family for women in Japan

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Momo Nakamura

How should Japanese women who want to have both a career and family, including children, live in current Japanese society?

This is the ultimate question for me since I am one of the women. In my future, I want to study conflict resolution or peace building in graduate school and have work that require what I have studied. Although I don’t know whether I will stay in Japan or not, it is clear that having a child is very difficult after the age of 30. That means women who want a child have to marry at least by 30.

Marriage is the first and maybe the most difficult part. Of course they don’t have to marry to have a child, however, many of them must be in need of a partner because of the unstable situation of the Japanese society. Raising a child costs a lot and takes time and care, so it will be really hard to do it alone. Those who can prioritize one thing, having family or career, won’t have such difficulty but for women like me, it will be a matter of chance to find a partner while working hard.

I can think of two reasons why I want to marry. One is the stereotype that exists strongly in Japanese society that women’s happiness is to have children and their family. I agree to some extent. It will become a new and fundamental “ibasho” where I can relieve and be needed. Second is about future income. If I became a person who works for peace, I can easily imagine that I don’t have so much income. This is why I need someone who has another way of making money. These two reasons show that although I’m aiming to have a new type of life, I’m still trapped to the old and traditional values and needs.

Second difficult part is the relationships between relatives and neighbors. It is important to maintain good relationships with people around us. We can have various kinds of security we need as families from the relationships that Japanese society have had for a long time in history, and it was mainly women’s job to make the relationships. However, having a new kind of life can make it difficult to have the relationships. When both parents work regularly, there is less time to spend with people around them. Also, people’s way of thinking seems to be changing. When I started to live in Kyoto, I thought I have to go to see my neighbors to say hello, what many Japanese do when they have moved to a new place. However, my parents disagreed because it may be dangerous to tell my neighbors that I’m living alone. Some connections that were seen as a security are now seen as something different. In this situation, it requires active approaches to bring back the security.

I often think of those problems that may occur when I try to realize my dream, and it is deeply connected to the society where we live. Although it is difficult, I want to keep challenging and this type of life may one day become a normal way of life.

My experiences and expectations for my future

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

Anonymous student post

Do you know Kamagasaki? Kamagasaki is a city of the poor in Osaka, Japan. There are many homeless. Almost all of them are old men and day labors. Problems which they have are many and complicated.

Originally, day labors in Kamagasaki were recruited from the whole of Japan to hold Japan World Exposition in 1970. But, after the 1973 and 1979 oil crisis, their jobs decreased intensively. They live depending on the wage of the day work. They don’t have houses and stay at day-labors’ lodgings called “Doya.” That is to say, no job means no money for living the day. They want to work but they have no job and no money, and they cannot help but be homeless.

I visited Kamagasaki as a study tour in the last spring vacation. Then, I heard a story of a man. He died alone in his room of an apartment building. One week after his death, he was found by others. The cause of his death was starvation. He was received welfare benefits, but he died of hunger. Why? A person who told us the story told the reason which he thought. Human have nothing to do, human don’t want to live. People who come to Kamagasaki have some problems and they don’t keep in touch with their family and relative. Therefore, they don’t ask about their experience each other. They know each other by sight but they are not friends who do something together and don’t have such friends. They are solitary and lonely. No one cared him, and no one knew his death for a week.

I don’t want to be a homeless or to die alone while no one know. It is too sad to die alone while no one alone. So as not to do so, I want to marry and to have some children. I want to have three children because I am one of them. For it, I want to have a stable job. My parents are public employees. The salary of public employee are lower than other business. But public employee is securer and safer than others. What I want is not a high but a decent salary and stability. Also I want my partner to have a regular work because I think that it is hard to bring up three children by only my income or my income and her income of irregular work. So, my future plan is to have family and to have a job which give me enough money to support my family.

Basic ideas for my future

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Gakuho Goto

To tell the truth, I am one of the young people who do not have a specific idea what I want to be or to do, but feel uneasy for my future. Thus I could not make a concrete plan of my future. However what I have considered important in my life is humanity.

Human relations are an example of it, family, friends, partner, teachers, and so on. Because their relations are open my perspective and give me “ibasho”. As Allison’s text said, Japanese people who live in contemporary Japanese society are likely to lose ibasho. This tendency increases problems like hikikomori and suicide. One of the reasons for the problem is that capitalistic interest is regarded as more important than human time. Many people struggle to get money to have their life better and devote themselves to company. Therefore an opportunity of meeting family or friends are decreased and a distance of them is also expanded. This causes isolation, in other words losing ibasho. Even though they have money, they cannot be satisfied with their lives.

I am not saying that earning money is less important than human time. Poverty is caused by a lack of money and getting money is the presupposition in leading life. But level of happiness has been increasing as time passed. For example consuming was a happiness in Japan of the 90s. Thus next form of happiness should be taken in a whole society. There is an interesting relations between a statistic of working hours in 41 countries and one of world happiness report in 2013. These statistics shows that the countries which have low rate of working hours would get high rate of happiness, especially in Northern Europe. I want to make an analysis of Northern Europe known as welfare state. These countries offer a caring social security system. The young can enroll in university for free, and the elderly people also have a special nursing facilities. Surely the GDP of these countries is not high compared with other developed ones. But humanity is guaranteed widely.

Considering these things, protecting humanity is a meaningful way of increasing happiness in the long run. However the welfare system of Northern Europe is possible in small areas. Firstly I want to make circumstances of respecting humanity at least around me, including in my family. This is little concrete idea what I want to do in my future.

The blessed few in precarious Japan

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Atsushi Amemiya

When you look for regular work, you will find two kind of jobs. The first type of works is a public officer who is employed by a nation or a local government. The second one is a laborer who works in a private enterprise. Here, I’d like to talk about a public officer in Japan.

Although a public officer had been not a so popular job before the Bubble collapsed, it got first place in many Japanese rankings of dream job after the Bubble collapsed. Actually, I also consider it as a place of employment after graduate as same as many other university students in Japan. Then, why is a public officer so popular in Japan? I think there are three reasons.

The first reason is that a public officer is one of the most stable jobs. It is hard to think that Japan come to a collapse. Moreover also, since the Japanese Government and a Japanese local government adopt a seniority system, a public officer increasingly earn much money as he or she grows older even if he or she produces nothing.

The second reason is that a working conditions of a public officer is relatively better than most of private enterprises. Especially, for women, I think a public officer is one of best jobs in Japan. This is because according to the National Personnel Authority and Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office, a job separation rate of women after a marriage is about fourteen times as high as the rate of female government officials after a marriage. A job separation rate of female government officials after a marriage is just 2%. It is surprisingly low.

The third reason is that non-Japanese cannot work as a public officer with few exceptions (a foreign resident of Japan, professors in national or public universities and so on). Now that a market is globalized and Japan is an aging society with a declining birthrate, it is time to receive foreign workers from the world. Actually, Prime Minister Abe considers a foreign worker policy that Japan receives 200,000 foreign workers annually. Then, if this policy is carried out, unemployment is growing rapidly in the various fields of industry. However, public officers do not lose their jobs because foreign workers cannot become public officers since they do not have Japanese nationality.

In conclusion, I can affirm that a public officer is one of the best jobs in precarious Japan for the above reasons although I’m not sure that a public officer will be a stable job in the future. Of course, there are institutional weaknesses of a public officer. For instance, the young cannot earn a lot of money even if they produce excellent results in their jobs because of a senior system. However, I think public officers are the blessed few, bearing the weakness in mind because their life was guaranteed by a nation or a local government even in precarious Japan where a lot of Japanese feel a sense of despair.

References

General Equality Bureau Cabinet Office (2013), Danjo kyodou sankaku hakusyo (A report of gender equal society) Retrieved from: http://www.gender.go.jp/about_danjo/whitepaper/h25/zentai/index.html

The National Personnel Authority (2011), Josei kokka koumuin no saiyou touyou no gennjoutou (The present condition about employment and promotion of female government officials) Retrieved from: http://www.jinji.go.jp/saiyoutouyou/sankoushiryou/III.pdf

Future plans, destroyed dreams, and heartless people

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Yohei Kondo

I have some plans for future. The first one is to graduate Ritsumeikan University in four years. After that, I’m planning to go back to Hiroshima which is my home town and get a job at Mazda car company, because my family is living in Hiroshima and my grand mother wants me to come home. My house in Hiroshima is one of ibasho for me, because everytime I come home, my family says “Welcome home” and I feel relaxed with them. My father is working at Mazda. It is one of the biggest companies in Hiroshima and it is paid work. My mother is teaching English for high school students. Thanks to my parent’s effort, I could come to Kyoto and study what I want to do. My mother’s side grandmother is living with my parents. On the other hand, my dad’s side grandmother is over seventy years old, however she is living by herself. I’m worrying about her, because in the book Precarious Japan there were two stories about old people who died because they were disconnected from others. I think these reports realized me how important to have a connection with others.  Also, I want to get married before I am 30 years old and have 2 children just like my parents. I would like to spend much time with my family on every Saturdays and Sundays.

However, these plans are unstable because of today’s Japanese society. It is getting more and more difficult for us (young people) to get a job because a large number of companies employ cheaper laborers from other countries. I am apprehensive about this job shortage could increase the number of “furita”,“hikikomori” and “parasite singles” and it create a “muen-shakai”. In my future, if I am a furita or something like that, I probably cannot get married because of short income. Typically, Irregular workers income is less than regular worker’s one. Regular workers get 4 million yen per year, on the other hand, average irregular worker’s annual income is under 2 million yen. It means that it is difficult for irregular workers to have children and take care of their family too.

I think these structures of Japanese society are destroying people’s dreams and creating heartless people.  So, what we have to do are to find our own ibasho where we can feel comfortable, build a relationship with those around us, be nice to other people in order to exterminate the word of “muen-shakai” from Japan.

Who needs a husband?

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Zhang Shiwen

Work is more loyal than a husband, I think. My ibasho will be my work in the future, as well as my ibasho is my university now. The reason is simple, because if I am not a student or a worker in Japan, I cannot continue living in Japan. Moreover, I can feel that I am valuable when I get a good grade in test or I am needed by my friends, such as having a party after school or going for a trip together. In fact, when I was a student in language school, I was living like a hikikomori (Allison, 2013). I felt pressure from teachers that they want me to go to a good university. On the other hand, I did not have good friends and could not have communication with Japanese. I preferred staying in the dormitory, but I felt so lonely and meaningless at that time. Due to that, being a university student really made me comfortable and my life meaningful. Therefore, my ibasho will be my work which will give me the same value, I hope.

However, if I work in Japan, my work will betray me if I do not have a husband. 10 years later, I will be 30 years old. According to Heikinchokonneirei (n,d.), it is known that 40 years ago in Japan, I should have married by the age of 24 years. However, will it be the best time for me, a 30 years old woman 10 years later, to get married, or it will be later?

What’s more, I have watched a Japanese drama that the main character, a 30 years old Cabin Attendant who was working in a big airline company, was fired at her best period in her career because the company would pay more money to new, young employees. It means that although the situation of women employees is becoming better, women and foreigners like me are the most precarious people in Japan, as Allison (2013) notes. Due to this, even if I want to continue working, from the view of company, they may get more benefits from hiring an unskilled, low-paid youth than me, who is high-paid and skilled. Also, unmarried is looked as irresponsible to the society. Therefore, for women working in Japan, it is hard for them to say “Who needs a husband”, because the society, where the shoshika (low birth rate) is advancing, need women to have husbands!

My other ibasho is my home with my parents, so I hope to have a job which can make me come and go from China to Japan. My parents have no wish to live in Japan, but I should take care of them after they retire. Due to this, I am not sure where should I live after I retire. Therefore, if I work for a Japanese company and pay pension contributions to Japanese government every month in the future, but I finally decide to go back to China, I cannot take back all insurance money I have paid, and also I cannot enjoy the Japanese welfare system. At the same time, the Chinese government will not provide me social security because I have not paid for the Chinese pension system, so how can I feed myself after I retire?

The situation will be better if I can take the right of permanent residence, while it is not very easy. However, a quick and easy way is to marry a Japanese man, which is also recommend by my parents. Therefore, is it good for foreigners to have a Japanese spouse? From Appendix A, it is known that the foreign wives are twice as common as husbands. I believe that most of them are married by love, but some Chinese wives I have known cannot speak Japanese well and seldom have Japanese friends. Caring for the children and their house are the only things they need to do.

Appendix A (Retrieved from http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/honkawa/1190.html)

Appendix A (Retrieved from http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/honkawa/1190.html)

In conclusion, it will continue to be hard for women in Japan to be independent from the social or familial role, as Allison (2013, p.22) notes. On the other hand, the pressure of managing both work and family became larger. Women are encouraged to work hard but precariously, and at the same time, they are blamed for not marrying.

I think it is very important for women to marry and have a family, but it should not be done for  the society or family. I means that we relay on our family for spirit,but not for pressure from parents, companies, and the society. Therefore, the government should provide an environment for women to make better choices for themselves and by themselves.

References

Allison,A. (2013). Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Heikinchokonneirei no Suii [The change in the average age of marriage]. Keikon Rikon deta.Net [Marrige and Divorce Net.] (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.kekkon-data.net/marriage/cnt/heikin_shokon.php

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The future is fluid and invisible

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Kota Yanigadani

The future is not fixed, it is fluid and invisible, but still we can have a plan on our future and even try to realize the future. My future is after working at some professional workplace about security or conflict resolution, working, as a world citizen, to reduce violence in the world, correct injustice, and thus end poverty in the world. Therefore, in this post, connections between my future plans and Anne Allison’s vision of Japan are mentioned.

First of all, the current precarious condition in Japan does not have a big influence on my plan superficially. According to Allison, the mainly aging population, people in solitude in  gray zones, lower positions for women, and the typical company employment system are precarious conditions in Japan. On the aging population and seniors, I do not think the truth is so serious because technology is progressing rapidly. Robot industry can solve work forces in the future, and robot can be the catalyst for people and seniors. From this point, I do not think these are related to helping people suffering from poverty and violence. Also, the typical company employment does not have an influence on my future, because as today’s plan, I do not plan to work as a company man.

Second, my ibasho is actually my family and university. University is ba for me to prove myself, and I always feel comforted by being at home. However, what makes my identity is not my nationality. Recently, I have felt as if I am a cosmopolitan, which means I have strong global, world citizenship. To put it simply, while my ibasho is my family and ba is my university, my identity is not Japanese, but world citizen.

Finally, still I have more habits as Japanese compared to other nationalities, and Allison’s view on Japan is really common to me. The most similar vision is that Japan has a strong vertical relation among people. For example, when we meet people being older than us, we usually use keigo, which is polite communication tool in Japan, and we use more polite keigo when we talk with boss in our workplace. When I met president of our company at my workplace, actually I had the most polite posture and used clear keigo.

In addition to this, there is common system in Japanese company called nenkojoretsu, which Allison mentioned. This system is the longer you work in a company, the higher position and salary you can have. However, recently due to this system, a lot of people, especially young people have been fired and some bosses are really incapable, since they do not have much experience of competing for survival in their companies. I believe the system of vertical society and nenkoujoretsu have given rise to one kind of precarious condition in Japan today.

In conclusion, a unique style of society in Japan actually has an impact on my future plan, even though that seems this impact is not a big deal. Family is my ibasho, which should be common to many people. Given the company, because it is too typical to be a company man, working as a salary man is not first-choice for me as I said. Basically, I do not want to end my life too normally, which is to work in a company, to have a family, to see grandson, to end life happily. Instead of this, I always think I would like to make some change, or do some big things, which led to my quite big future plan. In that sense, some condition of Japan like Allison said might have a big impact on my future plan.

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