Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Income risk — Part 2 

I title this post as “Income risk” but this AFP/Yahoo! News story also ties in a few themes that I have explored recently. Excerpt:

Curse of part-time work shatters Japan’s middle-class dreams
After a decade of corporate restructuring, a third of Japan’s workforce is now in part-time or contract jobs, a trend policy makers worry will erode contributions to the social safety net and further discourage people from having children in a rapidly ageing society.

A phenomenon known as ‘freeters’, workers who are free-minded but financially unstable, began at the peak of the 1980s economic bubble when young Japanese shunned the regimented corporate world in favour of the more flexible hours offered by part-time work.

But according to a 2003 government survey, 70 percent of freeters aged 15 to 34 would now prefer to have full-time jobs...

Traditionally in Japan people have found the most stable job opportunities only at graduation from high-school or university.

This means it is hard to join the workforce at any other time as a full-time worker, and the practice of hiring new graduates for long-term employment is fading, said Reiko Kosugi, senior researcher at the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training...

Jobs offered to high school graduates now total only 200,000 a year, down sharply from an average 1.68 million in the early 1990s, while offers to university graduates have declined to two-thirds of the levels seen a decade ago...

With the widening income gap, a mindset of winners and losers is developing in a workforce that once largely thought of itself as a middle-class mass. “I think the sense of inequality is growing among those in the workforce,” said Fumio Otake, associate professor, Institute of Social and Economic Research at Osaka University...

Many young people turned off by the job hunt rely on their parents, but such support is not a long-term option...
Economic uncertainty and income risk is a worldwide phenomenon, not just an American one nor a Singaporean one. Note how the story brings in the problem of falling birth rates and perceptions of economic inequality, which are also of concern in Singapore. And with the difficulty in getting stable jobs, even for graduates, the role of agencies that facilitate employment — like the Workforce Development Agency — and the availability of long-term financial support take on added significance.

So the story has relevance to Singapore, and it is no surprise that The Straits Times also carries a version of the report today.


Good article about Japan's freeters. Over here (I've lived in Japan for 7 years) I see lots of of the above-mentioned freeters. Japan is in deep trouble - a shrinking demographic, no more lifelong employment, a pension system in dire need of reform, loss of confidence... the list goes on. Sobering stuff for us Singaporeans.

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