Finding my ibasho in the 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 Natsuki Suzuki

Ibasho is a place where I can stay comfortably and where I can allow to stay whenever I want. Ibasho means both rooms (places) and human relationship. For me, it is wherever people always accept me (wherever is ok!), but mainly my family, relatives and friends. Also, my home, hometown and school (current and past) are my ibasho.

The work I want to do in the future is directly connected with my opinion on ibasho, because I want to create a comfortable society where everyone has their own ibasho. I feel Japanese society and relationships are too tight and cold, and I wish everyone has more tolerance. There are some organizations that work for people who need ibasho. For instance, counseling at Tohoku, gathering for women or sexual minorities and café that thinks about peace. I respect those organizations. At first I was thinking of my future plan working to support developing countries and resolving war. Such my vision came from a wish that I want a peaceful world. However, one day I realized that Japan has also many serious problems such as disconnected people and high suicide number. That is, current precariousness of life in Japan affected me to stand up for changing Japanese society. Japan was less peaceful than I thought, and I hope someday I realize world peace from Japan with wonderful members.

My vision about relationship and family in the future is very flexible. I don’t care whether I get married or not. I also don’t care about the age, but if I have a child, I’d like to get married under 25 years old because the younger is the better to have babies as ability. If I get married but don’t have a child, I prefer at the age of over 45. It’s just because I’m worried about my elderly life. I want broad and worldwide relationships in the future (and also now) since it may be important for my job and it’s nice to learn many things from friends. In addition, I want to have good relation with my family, relatives and old friends for life long. I will try to have contact with them however I’m busy. Also I take it as necessary to have connection with neighbors because it affect my life quality. Allison points out about contactless in page 20, but I will always be positive to have koryu. In every relationship, I think it’s important to have face-to-face connection. More and more people came to use SNS and it’s a good way to keep in touch with friends, but still actual meeting is the best. Also, Allison points out about contactless in page 20, and I think connection with neighbors is necessary for my good living.

Allison’s view of Japan is interesting and true. For example, I heard that hunting a job is so difficult, and some of my friends tend to be hikikomori. Those examples are not difficult to find. There are more issues in Japan other than Allison says in the text, such as extreme (wrong) nationalism, however, Allison’s vision of liquid Japan agrees with my experiences and view of Japan. I think it is the cause of most issues she points out.

Liquid Japan is a result of neoliberalism, which means many problems are regarded as personal one (just in one aspect). Losing in this world is because you didn’t have talent or ability that the society requires, and it’s jikosekinin. Therefore, most people don’t try to solve its system although their “personal” problems even though the problems come from social structure. In addition, many people have serious problems that others can’t or don’t help because of jikosekinin, so they are likely to lose their hope. Such people can be found everywhere around me. I think now Japan came to a turning point to change the way how the government, companies and lifestyle are. People who are struggling with their personal problems usually don’t afford to think about others, but I believe they are the main actors who stand up together and change current problematic social system.

Reference

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

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The Rise of the Precariat

Anonymous student post

Nowadays in the era of globalization companies are under more and more pressure to be as nimble and flexible as possible in order to be able to outmaneuver the competition. Thus in their struggle for relevance governments and employers are flexibilizing the labour markets. This takes form via short term contract based employment. It enables the employers to minimize cost and maximize gain by creating fierce competitive environment where current employees feel pressured to work their best for the prospect of future employment. Also it drives the wages down as companies are more and more looking into outsourcing their skilled labour and production. On top of all that the recent trend in employment, for the first time in history, employers demand that their employees hold higher education that , some 20 years ago, would be reasonably required for a given position. A barista at the local Starbucks probably should not require a graduate college degree in order to serve ones coffee.

As a result the working class, the proletariat, is rapidly shrinking away. And a new social class has emerged. The precariat arises, what was once a part of the now diminishing working class manifests itself as the working nomad. Without the welfare benefits of the working class there is no certainty about tomorrow and no clear established career path, the precariat has way to identify oneself within the current society.

The global economy are rapidly converging, the wages of the developed countries fall and equalize with those of the developing countries. As basic business economy would teach you perceived loss would never be forgotten. In order to ease the transition and prevent a potential upheaval the government offered subsidies for employment, cheap credit and tax subsidies. With the burst of the bubble economy all that has gone away and thus the proletariat is forced to the precariat. As every movement stems from the needs and aspirations of the society we have witnessed such movements such as Occupy Wall Street or the Arab Spring. Where people in the near east countries such Egypt, Libya, Yemen and other take to the streets to voice their concerns. Thus the precariat becomes self aware demanding the attention of the politicians.

So who really is the precariat? While in the developed countries it is the nomad employee with no or limited upward mobility in the developing countries the situation is more grave as the people may be in a situation of downward mobility. If that is not the case that may very well be because they have already sunk so low that there is no lower to go. Thus the precariat at this point is someone in a situation with no resolve. Thus the they need to press for new policies to be implemented to accommodate the new emerging class.

Social Equality and the Idol of Growth

by Marcel Koníček

I come from the Czech Republic, a country with one of the most equal distributions of wealth in the world. However, even the Czech Republic has recently felt the change in the policies of employment in many parts of the economy that are supposed to raise the competitiveness of the economy on the global markets but which also rob the employees of much of their job security. This change became very tangible after the crash of the US banks in 2008, which started the tsunami of economic crisis that sent all European economies into disarray. Suddenly, the broad group of debt-ridden people whose employment depended on the short-term needs of their employers, beingsuddenly shifted from permanent employment into agency work and short term contracts, living from payday to payday, appeared and it has not disappeared ever since.

This is not a local phenomenon. The changes in the Czech Republic coincide with the systematic worldwide shift that Standing describes in his book The Precariat. In the book he is describing the social group of the same name (which is an allusion to the proletariat), a very broad group of people that are living in constant uncertainty. The growth of this social group is mainly caused by the globalisation of the world economy and the effort of the corporations to cut their costs and keep them competitive with the newly rising economies in Asia (Standing 2011:40-50).

It is possible to assume that being part of the precariat is not something that most people would like to experience. Losing your job security is certainly not a good thing. Still, it is not only the companies that are making this change happen. More and more, it is the policy makers of the countries who contribute to the raising social inequality and job insecurity. They argument with neo-liberal ideas of equality being stifling for the economic growth and job security being a barricade for creating new jobs. They speak about economic growth and statistic measures such as GDP as if it was some kind of pagan idol, a cure-all for all the ailments of the human race. That the only thing that is important in the end is the bottom line.

However, things such as job security and social equality have many merits that are hard to evaluate by simple economic statistics. If somebody does not have to be afraid about the future of his job, he is probably less likely to try abuse the social system. If he lives in a more equal society, it is less likely for him to search for easy-sounding but radical political solutions. In this context, the neo-liberal laissez-faire policies look more like a trade-off that might be or might not be worth it. However, this is only true if their initial assertions are true. Is economic equality really slowing down the economic growth?

According to Lane Kenworthy this might not be so. In his study he is comparing economic equality and growth in many developed countries. He finds that:

“Affluent countries with egalitarian institutions and policies have so far been fairly successful at maintaining relatively high levels of income equality. And that success does not appear to have come at the expense of income growth for the middle class or the poor. There may be a trade-off between earnings equality and job growth, but its magnitude appears to bemodest.” (Kenworthy 2011:32)

If that is so, should the politicians be trying to reverse this shift towards inequality and job insecurity? I believe so. Sadly, it seems that both politicians and businessmen perceive growth and spending cuts as some kind of idol that has to be worshiped despite the consequences. This is in my eyes not a healthy sustainable attitude.

The pros and cons of “jiko sekinin”

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan spea...

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Ami Yamada

In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison regards the movement that forced people to have more self-responsibility (“jiko sekinin”) as a negative on the whole. After the bursting of bubble, the Japanese government has reformed some traditional Japanese systems and shifted more responsibility to the individual rapidly. The movement was attributed to spread neo-liberalism in Japan. The government adopted the idea and promoted some policies, for example, a massive deregulation and restructuring platform, which were based on market fundamentalism and capitalism.

Moreover, under such a situation, the Prime Minister Koizumi pushed on “structural reform without sanctuaries”, including system of health care. Reforms based on neo-liberalism and market fundamentalism produced bipolarization, that is, rich and poor. It is hard for people who fell into poor spiral once to get out of the loop of poor, and now, there are many poor people who are left by even social safety nets and cannot make a basic life. Allison mentions that they float at work and drift in life as NEET, net café refugees, homeless, hikikomori and so on. Allison also says that these situations do not match the right which is guaranteed by the article 25 of Japanese constitution; all people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.

As I received Aliison’s thought, then I myself think about “jiko sekinin”. First, I state pros of it. I think that we can choose almost all things by ourselves like in Japanese society, although free choices always have responsibility. It depends on yourself whether go to school, work, get marriage, have a child, or not. In addition, people who make effort or have talent can succeed and become a winner in neo-liberal society. The more effort you make, the much salary you can get. It can motivate you and may tell you how important you try to do your best.

Next, I think about cons of “jiko sekinin”. People were given the right of free choices and had to bear the responsibility by themselves at the same time. However, I think that the situation, “free”, varies from person to person. I mean, it is not good to force people to hold yourself responsible for everything (especially bad, negative thing), although people can live in only place where has limited by something already.

To be honest, I cannot say to be for or against the movement “jiko sekinin” sweepingly. However, I believe strongly that it is nonsense to label someone who is like net café refugees, homeless, hikikomori and so on as a just lazy without considering their background and social circumstance. Not only government also we should support these people properly.

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Refugeeism and Denizenship

by Asuko Sugino

First of all, I’ll talk about the definitions of “refugeeism” and ”denizenship”, secondly I’ll refer to where refugees or denizens might belong to instead, and then finally I’d like to mention an example of one refugee in the Philippines who made the organization working for equality and social justice.

The word “refugee” in Precarious Japan by Anne Allison is used in a broad sense. That is to say, it indicates everyone who doesn’t have the place where they can feel comfortable or a sense of home, rather than the people who live in a tent in a refugee camp. She declares to us that this refugeeism has become “ordinary” in Japan which can’t provide “ibasho” for the citizen, citing many examples of “net café refugees” or “temps”. These refugees cannot be equal to non-refugees in various ways (shelter, stable salary, guarantee for future).

On the other hand, “denizen” in this article doesn’t include the above-mentioned examples such as Japanese net café refugees or temp workers. Refugees don’t have “ibasho” but “citizenship” at least. “Denizen” lacks not only secure job, where to return but also their own citizenship, therefore they are not regarded as citizen but resident alien. I think that “denizens” lacks both of equal status and rights, while “refugees” lacks just equal status. To make the worse, according to Anne Allison, denizenship is made use of and exploited by global capitalism because denizens have no choice but to stand working at low wage, with short-term contract and few benefits. Additionally, this system using denizen labors is plotted on purpose and the number of them will increase.

Now, where do they find alternative “ibasho”? In my opinion, both of refugees and denizens tend to seek it at anti-social organizations such as gangster organizations or crime syndicates, because society robbed them of essential status and rights. Some decide to soak themselves into drugs or alcohol without seeking alternative “ibasho”. However, some people try to alter by themselves the wrong social system, facing the reason why the society failed to give them the benefits to be granted. The following is one example.

In the Philippines, 10 years ago, one 16-year boy named Eflen Penyaflorida living in a slum in Manila was worried about the future of his hometown. The children surrounding him supported their families’ living by gathering garbage, so most of them don’t receive an education and become gang members as they grew up. He hoped the gangs in Manila would disappear by receiving enough education to gain ordinary jobs. He established “DTC (Dynamic Teen Company)” and started teaching the children by himself breaking down their parents’ opposition. Now, the scale of the organization is as large as the school and it was awarded a prize by CNN. Eflen didn’t look for his new “ibasho”, but create it by himself.

Everyone cannot make their own “ibasho” by their hands, still we have the responsibility for trying to make the proper place for “refugees” or “denizens” instead of anti-social places, as a member of the society.

Reference

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

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Refugeeism, social rights and the Japanese government

Anonymous student post

Seal of the Office of the Prime Minister and t...

Seal of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Government of Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Anne Allison (2013), Japan is facing an era of ordinary refugeeism, in which ordinary people like us could be a homeless with no job and no place to return to. Many of these people Anne Alison calls “the drifting poor” are flexible or irregular workers, including temporary workers or day laborers having no job security, often with no compensation or health insurance and earning about 7000yen for a day on average. Some of these workers become net café refugees, spending nights at an internet café or hamburger shops since they cannot afford an apartment. Among those most precarious workers, quite many numbers are the young generations in their age of twenties. This new face of poverty in Japanese society are ordinary youth we can find anywhere in Japan once expected to be a re-productivity of Japanese society and shoulder it’s economy of the next generation (Allison, 2013).

It seems clear that Japan’s progressively reproductive futurism is collapsing into precarious society with no hope for the future, as Anne Allison points out in her book. Recently, only a few percent of world population is monopolizing the wealth and the economic gap is widening and the number of precarious people are considered denizens without sustainable jobs, full citizenship or home even inside their home country is increasing. Japan is not the exception but at the front of this trend.

This situation of denizens contradicts the Japanese constitution. According to article 25 which stipulates the right to life and the state’s social mission, all citizens are entitled to have healthy and culturally basic existence (Tanaka, 2014). It could also be a violation of social rights in International Covenants on Human Rights that Japan has been ratifying (Tanaka, 2014). It is obvious that being homeless and not able to lay down when sleeping, eating cup noodles only and continuously threatened by job insecurity is not a healthy and culturally basic existence and Japanese government has a responsibility by not fulfilling this right.

The Japanese Government protected big companies in priority and introduced the system of results-based employment and individual responsibility after facing the bursting of the bubble economy and the following economic decline. However, they did not proclaim any effective policy on social security to protect people who fell out of the new working system nor develop a social welfare system. Currently, the Abe administration is practicing the policy of Abenomics, the economic and monetary policies of prime minister Abe. I suspect that this economic measure is not effective by accelerating the social gap and distortion of neoliberalism.

Statistics are showing that although companies’ profits had increased with Abenomics, capital investment has not increased; therefore the policy is failing to distribute wealth for the employees (Suzuki, n.d.). Furthermore, the administration is spending so much time and effort on the argument of revision of article 9. Rather, I think the government should provide countermeasures on employment and social welfare for this critical situation affecting too many irregular workers. However, the Abe administration has reduced the budget for public assistance since August 2013 (Seikatsuhogohi, 2013).

If the future of our country is the youth who are irregular workers, with no home, no hope or plan for the future, Japan will blow up itself. In order to break through this situation, it is very important to have NPOs or NGOs to help those precarious people. However, I believe this is more the government’s responsibility to control and correct these issues. I think one of the biggest problems is that the Japanese people have little sense of entitlement and depend on the bureaucracy. We citizens too have a responsibility by light polls at elections to overlook the hardship. I think we should not just accept unfair situations or deceived by government’s little temporary distribution of economic profit trying to divert citizen’s dissatisfaction. We Japanese citizens should actively request the government to fundamentally improve the social welfare system.

References

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

Tanaka, M. (2014). Basic documents of International Law. Toshindo: Japan.

Suzuki, M.(n.d.). Setsubitoushi karamita keikijunkan [capital investment and economic rocovery]. Retrieved from http://group.dai-ichi-life.co.jp/dlri/monthly/pdf/0811_7.pdf

Seikatsuhogohi 8 gatubunkara gengakue [public assistance budget will be reduced from this August] (May 16, 2013). Retrieved from Asashi Digital: http://newvo.jp/237743/%E6%9C%9D%E6%97%A5%E6%96%B0%E8%81%9E%E3%83%87%E3%82%B8%E3%82%BF%E3%83%AB%EF%BC%9A%E7%94%9F%E6%B4%BB%E4%BF%9D%E8%AD%B7%E8%B2%BB%E3%80%81%EF%BC%98%E6%9C%88%E5%88%86%E3%81%8B%E3%82%89%E6%B8%9B%E9%A1%8D%E3%81%B8%E3%80%80%EF%BC%92%E5%B9%B4%E3%81%A7%EF%BC%96%EF%BC%8E%EF%BC%95%EF%BC%85%E3%82%AB%E3%83%83%E3%83%88-%E6%94%BF%E6%B2%BB

 

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Individual responsibility in Japan

by Natsuki Nakasone

In the book Precarious Japan, Anne Allison says that individual responsibility (jikosekinin) is one of reasons that make hikikomori. We often see that people who reject the decision of independence become hikikomori. After the bursting of the bubble, the government started to promote the politics of neoliberalism like the easing of restraints. And then, at the time of the Koizumi administration, the government eased restrictions too much, because it included very important things like health-care. As a result of it, people came to have to be responsible for their own lives. The exceeding easing of regulations brought precariousness of lives.

Actually, I agree with this opinion. It seems that individual responsibility enables people in Japan to make their own decisions and to choose things that they want to do. However, it can cause several problems which exist in this precarious Japan.

Now, I am a college student, so I am often told that I should have responsibility for my decisions and actions. It is essential in some degree to become independent from my parents. However, I sometimes feel anxiety and fear. For example, for college students, earning credits is very important thing, so most of them try to work hard to get them. Nevertheless, some of them might be not able to earn enough credits because of various reasons, such as surrounding circumstances. At that time, they can be said that it is your fault. There is an enough possibility that the same thing occur in work place. These are obviously not fair. Jikosekinin in Japan lacks consideration for those who are in a hard situation. That is why jikosekinin makes hikikomori.

And also if people put the all decisions into individual’s hand as jikosekinin, someday people will conflict with others because of the differences of sense of value. Therefore, the drawing a line is difficult.

I think that Japanese put off solving many social problems by connecting individual responsibility, because of lack of recognizing those problems as familiar problems. In Japan, most of people can live ordinary lives, so they do not or cannot think about social problems seriously. Even though many people face the difficulties, Japanese think that I am an exception.

Reference

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

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The Perception on Migration in This Endangered World

by Hiroki Matsukura

This world where we live is endangered. Why? This is because albeit through two destructive wars with cruel inhumanity, we, it seems, have not found where the monster of mass-destruction is hiding himself. However, in fact the monster has not perfectly hidden himself from our eyes. He showed his tail. The economic or monetary crisis in 2007 and its aftermath seen as the euro crisis in these days might be his ‘tickling.’ There is no longer need to say the detail about these crises, which shows that without any doubt this world got tied closely together through the market which is deregulated well by the policies of liberalism.

Free trade, reducing taxation, and deregulations… These liberal or neo-liberal ideas and systems, which are sometimes too extreme and too drastic, made our world smaller and more efficient (Balaam and Dillman 2011, pp.43-46). As the thoughts and the structures going, we grew up technologies, especially information technology. I can easily know what my friend on the back hemisphere doing now with handy devices. Not only that, we can fligh overseas quite easily and more inexpensively, compared with the just a few decades. We can express about ourselves as we live in the transnational way. However, in the aspects of international immigration, we cannot say we get such convenience on it. We can find some obstacles on living in other country, for example as workers. Of course, EU assures its citizens of the free immigration inside its territory though this must be one extreme exception (Nugent 2010, pp. 335-339).

Why do not states try to completely let the immigration free? From realistic view, the reason will be that the governments, which race their powers in this international society, cannot tolerate, for their respect on victories of relative gain, the flow of too much wealth from their states to others because of immigrants’ remittances (Balaam and Dillman 2011, p.57). Or it is difficult for them to accept living in transnational ways in the first place because it may lead to an outflow of resources such as people who are talented for keeping and raising states’ status and powers. In addition, the borders are one of the items which the governments more easily and more directly deal with compared to the market.

As one of other perspectives, which I would like to emphasise on this post, the reason might be that the free migration implies nothing but the diffusion of poverty at the same time of movement of wealth. On the theory of liberalism, free trade including labour and financial commodities finally makes benefits on society as such forms as elimination of poverty (Balaam and Dillman 2011, pp.33-38). However, we know what the theory led to through the crises. States got too much of deficits, banks and companies are pushed to the brink of bankruptcy. What we can imagine the free migration leads to is the loop of poverty. On the global level, people will start to search for jobs, or the places they sell their labours. That will make wages cheaper and cheaper. They continuing the process, the wealth will be monopolised by the really small limited group of people. We perhaps can say the realisation of free migration means more tangible way of man-made catastrophe than the finance, which cannot be seen as substance, did.

The monster seeks the chance of barking. Interdependence liberals vociferously asserting will turn into MAD, the mutually assured destruction. We should keep it in our minds that each of us has an invisible switch of mass-destructive weapon through global economics guaranteed by the extreme liberalisation. The weapon, Global Poverty, will globally kill people i.e. us. On the point of it, one of our last forts might be paralysing the completed liberalisation of migration at the present.

Bibliography

Balaam, D. N. and Dillman, B. 2011. Introduction to International Politics Economy. 5th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

Nugent, N. 2010. The Government and Politics of the European Union. 7th ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.