Admitting trouble has never been a strong point of the Japanese government, nor has planning ahead, but the failure to promptly and directly confront the current recession will have serious long-term effects. As news from abroad pours in, it is equally clear that Japan, one of the world’s largest economies, has its share of urgent economic problems. Unprecedented in its global and regional impact, the worldwide recession is not only about large corporations, banks, and international financial institutions; it is also about people.
As figures for GDP, consumer spending, exports, stock levels and capital investment nosedive, the government should offer more than one-time cash benefits. Cash is always welcome, but action directed toward easing the burden of working people is still a necessity. The relatively high savings rates of many Japanese families will ease some of the economic pinch, but not all.
The effects on people’s lives of this shrinking economy are already appearing in consumer spending, for example. Sales of luxury items at designer boutiques in Tokyo’s upscale shopping areas have slowed dramatically since early summer. Not buying a new designer bag may bring few tears for most people, but when spending drops in other sectors, the cumulative effects hit average workers as much as high-end corporations.
The so-called parasite singles who used to frequent those stores are now reported to be living at home out of necessity, not just so they can spend money on recreation and luxury items. Financial independence may now be nothing more than a dream for the majority of young people. Students are graduating with greater debt and finding fewer and lower-paying jobs.
As for the elderly, they too have felt the pinch. The record number of seniors arrested for crimes, mainly shoplifting, indicates that even the elderly are becoming desperate. After a lifetime of work, many seniors will spend their retirement age balancing expenses and worrying about how to make ends meet.
Reports from the United States found that 50 percent more children went hungry in 2007 than the year before. Such appalling statistics should motivate the Japanese government to initiate serious policies now. Never does the political and economic world seem so personal as during a recession.
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