Monday, December 17, 2007

Lifting A Finger

This piece is a translation of an Article by Ryujin Makoto.
My last blog touched upon the rising level of poverty in Japan. Indeed, [Philip Brasor in] the Japan Times newspaper has suggested that Japan’s Manufacturing industry is sliding back to third world standards.
To combat this slide logical thinkers and Japanese experts are suggesting a rise in the minimum wage might be in order. By earning more the lower income echelons of society can drag themselves a little out of poverty.
But, could we have predicted that the proposed rise would be so little? The government, ever conscious of supporting its poor, has offered a minimum wage increase of a mighty ten-yen. This equals ten-cense or five-pence. [Translators note: This dwarfs the stinginess of my first Somerfields Wage rise from £2.05 to £2.17]
We should not be so shocked. Only last year [2006] a company was pressured into a wage rise by its Union. The Union had offered a wage structure example based upon the wages offered to thirty-two year olds at the company. So, the company gave a wage rise of 100yen a month to all thirty-two year olds.
The excuse given by the government for offering only 10yen extra is that the manufacturing industry in Japan cannot afford anything above 10yen. Already these companies have shed benefit packages and forced employees down to minimum wage but its not enough to keep the industry healthy.
Needless to say 10yen is not helpful. In its genius the government has decided to pay for the wage hike by reducing benefit packages for poor and unemployed families. To this wound the Bank of Salt and the government are debating the merits of doubling the consumption tax [VAT] from 5yen in the hundred to 10yen.
I predict that the poor will continue to get poorer as the government apes that buffoon [Bush] in America.

Rich Japan

This piece is a translation of an article by Ryujin Makoto.
Things in Japan are beginning to coalesce. People are becoming more aware of the growing poverty at the heart of the world's richest nation. But, if it is enough to make people care is another question entirely.
Despite NHK (Japan's National Broadcaster) running its "Working Poor" series and the long running TV Asahi show "Zenigata Kintaro" few people are taking notice. The series, in their own ways, highlight growing poverty in Japan. Yet there is no popular clamour for change, there never is, and the politicians are turning a blind eye so long as the overall economy is ok.
"Working Poor" focuses on individuals living on the bread line in Japan. Though episode 3 considers the poor in America, Britain and South Korea. Most of these families seem to be stuck on minimum wage jobs. Many are broken families, often single mothers, receiving no support from the former spouse. Even qualification holders, such as those with cook's licences, who come from lower class backgrounds are finding it hard to get jobs that pay much more than minimum wage. [Translators note: As a graduate whose first post-graduation job was minimum wage in a shop knows how they feel].
Meanwhile "Zenigata Kintaro" has families competing, with a strong sense of comedy, to prove who is the least well off. The ones that convince the judges win a prize of $2,000. It demeans the subject as many Japanese documentaries often do but it raises some kind of awareness in a society which rarely pays attention to its ills. The featured families do without electricity and eat food that wouldn't nourish a roach. Hopefully these are all exaggerations and not real.
However, as I said in the opening, few are paying attention. This may have changed recently with the publication of comedian Hiroshi Tamura's book; "Homeless Junior High School Student." His mother died when he was young and the pressure of looking after three children caused the father to simply walk away leaving Hiroshi and his siblings living in the park.
Tamura's book, not the TV programmes, has led exalted MP, and heir to PM Fukuda, Taro Aso to declare that "we Japanese should never forget."
Well, home come despite evidence of poverty growing at an alarming rate in Japan why has your government still done nothing?