03/23/2005, 00.00
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An army of apathetic youth

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The number of Japanese youth lacking motivation to study or work is growing. The results of a national survey released by the Cabinet Office indicate that in October 2002 about 850,000 people aged 15 to 24 were believed to be neither in school nor employed, that is a 27 per cent jump from 1992.

"Many young people seem to have lost motivation to get a job," said Hiroshi Ito, an official at the Cabinet Office's youth section. "We must find ways to get them to regain motivation and return to society."

The survey shows that this army of NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training) is evenly divided between those who tried but failed to find jobs or enter schools, and those who simply made no effort to seek economic independence. As such they are seen as a social threat to the state.

Japanese media have tended to treat such 'jobless people' as losers, unrestrained by families and public authorities, spending their time in illegal activities.

In Japan work demands, a shortage of day-care and the high cost of education have caused couples to opt for fewer children with virtually one-child families becoming the norm. This has resulted in an average birth-rate of just 1.29 children per woman—among the lowest in the world.

Single children tend to be spoiled and embody the parent's hopes and expectations; however, this tends to create great stress. Stress-related suicide is in fact commonplace among young Japanese, often triggered by lack of success in school.

The future does not bode well either because of population aging. Demographers have predicted that Japan's population could peak at about 127.7 million in 2006 and fall rapidly over the next 50 years to roughly 100 million.

The prospect of a declining population has caused concern that young workers won't generate enough taxes to care for the burgeoning number of elderly people.

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