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We wrote a few weeks ago [Oct 28: Pooring of Japan Too?] how we were seeing some troubling similarities in Japan to the US - growth in working poor, temporary employment allowing pay without benefits, income gaps increasing after free market reforms, et al. Now comes this article from Bloomberg which is all the more remarkable considering (scary) the Japanese culture. I wonder if this is foreshadowing further parallels in the US of A. Societal strife will increase as a sense of stability and ability to provide for oneself/family is threatened. This continues to build into our case of a global "mean" in wages as capital has almost no boundaries - the middle class in richer countries suffer and the middle class in poorer countries improve.

  • More senior citizens are picking pockets and shoplifting in Japan to cope with cuts in government welfare spending and rising health-care costs in a fast-ageing society. Criminal offenses by people 65 or older doubled to 48,605 in the five years to 2008, the most since police began compiling national statistics in 1978, a Ministry of Justice report said.
  • The government aims to cut 220 billion yen ($2.3 billion) from social welfare spending in each of the five years starting 2006 as it seeks to balance the budget by 2011. As part of this plan, the government introduced a new health insurance system that would raise premiums for some elderly patients.
  • Theft is the most common crime of senior citizens, many of whom face declining health, low incomes and a sense of isolation, the report said. Elderly crime may increase in parallel with poverty rates as Japan enters another recession and the budget deficit makes it harder for the government to provide a safety net for people on the fringes of society.
  • ``The elderly are turning to shoplifting as an increasing number of them lack assets and children to depend on,'' Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor at Chuo University in Tokyo and an author of books on income disparity in Japan, said in an interview yesterday. ``We won't see the decline of elderly crimes as long as the income gap continues to rise.''
  • About a fifth of Japanese are 65 or older, almost twice the proportion in the U.S. and three times China's rate. That figure will double to more than 40 percent by 2050, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. There will be twice as many elderly Japanese as there are children within five years.
  • ``Some elderly, particularly men who lost their wives, even turn to crimes to be put in jail so they can be fed three times a day,'' Yamada said.

In a related note - not surprisingly, Japan just fell "officially" into recession

  • Japan's economy, the world's second largest, unexpectedly shrank in the third quarter, entering the first recession since 2001 as companies cut spending.
  • Gross domestic product fell an annualized 0.4 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo. Economists predicted the economy would grow 0.1 percent after contracting a revised 3.7 percent in the previous period.
Source: Bloomberg: Poverty and Pension Fears Drive Elderly Japanese to Crime