Japan’s first nationwide survey of middle-aged hikikomori in the pipeline

JIJI, Kyodo

The government has allocated ¥20 million from the fiscal 2018 budget to finance research for Japan’s first nationwide survey on middle-aged hikikomori — people who have shut themselves in their homes.

The survey, to take place in fiscal 2018 starting April 1, will be held amid growing calls for public assistance to help aged parents take care of their jobless, financially dependent and socially withdrawn children.

The survey will cover 5,000 randomly selected households with members aged between 40 and 59, to identify the total number of middle-aged social recluses in Japan.

The government also hopes to know how frequently these people venture out, why they have withdrawn from society, what kind of family situation they are in and what assistance their families hope to receive.

Based on a law enacted in 2009 to help nurture children and young people, the government surveyed recluses aged between 15 and 39 in 2010 and 2015. The study was limited to this age group as shut-in cases had been seen as more of an issue faced by children and youths who were bullied or faced truancy issues. However, the government now sees more recluses getting older and facing even greater periods of social isolation. Past survey results had already shown an aging trend for them.

While cases of people shutting themselves in their homes for at least six months fell from 696,000 in 2010 to 541,000 in 2015, the ratio of those who have been isolated from society for seven years or more surged from 16.9 percent to 34.7 percent, according to government data.