Let the power of youth snap Japan out of its funk
Today, the second Monday of January, is Coming-of-Age Day. We congratulate about 1.22 million people who were born in 1992 and turned 20 years old this year to become new members of adult society.
They are of the generation who has grown up during the "two lost decades" that followed the bursting of the bubble economy.
During this period, Japan's economy has languished, and its gross domestic product has been overtaken by that of China. Japan has surrendered its position as the world's second-biggest economy.
While the proportion of students going on to university remains above 50 percent, the employment situation is still grim. This is a period when young people are struggling to stay optimistic about their prospects.
But precisely because this is a tough situation, we have high expectations for the power of youth. We hope new adults who have already started their careers and those yet to join the workforce will work and study hard with pride that they are "vital" members of society.
Mostly satisfied with life
In a 2012 survey by the Cabinet Office, as many as 75 percent of people in their 20s-- those slightly older than the new batch of adults--said they were "satisfied" with their current lifestyle. This figure was the highest of all age brackets.
Sociologist Noritoshi Furuichi, author of the book "Zetsubo no Kuni no Kofukuna Wakamono-tachi" (The Happy Youth of a Desperate Country), believes the survey results indicated that people of this age "have little expectation that things will get better tomorrow, so they focus on spending joyful times with their peers here and now."
Possibly reflecting their sense of despair over the future, an increasing number of young people are seeking jobs that offer employment stability. According to a survey in 2012 by Japan Productivity Center, a government-backed think tank, 60 percent of newly recruited employees--an all-time high--said they "want to work at my current company for life."
Nevertheless, large firms cannot necessarily guarantee employment for life. Symbolic of this is the fact that many major home appliance manufacturers are groaning under huge deficits. Their quandary has been caused by such factors as intense international competition and their failure to keep up with foreign rivals in developing business strategies well suited to fast-changing market conditions.
Many companies in the home appliance industry and other sectors have been doing their utmost to survive by exercising their ingenuity in boosting their technological capabilities and improving their services.
Harnessing the Internet
The day will come when today's new adults take up the role of reinvigorating their companies and society.
One promising sign is that a number of young people have been actively starting businesses on their own. Many have designed new products on their websites, sent orders to production service firms to make them, and marketed the products on the Internet. This way of doing business, which originated in the United States, is spreading in Japan.
Since their childhood, new adults have been accustomed to using cell phones and personal computers. We hope they come up with flexible ideas unbound by conventional thinking.
All the residents of Katsurao, Fukushima Prefecture, have had to evacuate due to the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. On Jan. 2, the village government hosted a Coming-of-Age Day celebration in the district where the residents have moved.
At the ceremony, a new male adult spoke of his determination to work hard in the future. "I'll do my best to give other victims of the disaster hope for the future, and never forget the earthquake and tsunami catastrophe and the preciousness of my hometown."
We sincerely hope each new adult, while cherishing their own dreams and hopes, has the courage to carve out a new era.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 14, 2013)