Times are getting harder for Japanese workers. The generally low unemployment rate rose by more than 12 percent in the last year, and there’s a chance that it will go as high as 5% in the next year. Now this doesn’t sound like much, but in fact there is a lot of hidden unemployment in Japan (masked by the generally strong family ties here, and the pressure to conceal anti-social types such as hikikomori) which I feel would push the rate up much higher if it were officially acknowledged. I would say that there is a lot of unemployment/social withdrawal in Japan that never sees the light of day, and personally I know several people who are dealing with these issues in their own families. Even many of the bright young grads I know – ambitious, highly qualified and extremely well-educated at top universities – are having trouble finding work, and are feeling very discouraged right now. They and their anxious parents are extremely envious to hear of the Sonbeam’s job situation, until I point out that technically he is on a one-year contract without benefits, and could be dumped at any time. Daily I exhort him, “You jolly well make yourself indispensable at that job, if you lose it I’ll never forgive you!” and “Don’t forget, it’s my future too!” and so on. I don’t like to pressure him so, but Japanese society is not kind to the disenfranchised. I really do fear for the future of Japan. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
P.S. On the bright side, for some reason I’m busier than ever. Quite a lot of people are seeing the writing on the wall, and deciding that they’d better brush up on their marketable skills (especially English).