- POLITICAL SERIES
More support for younger generations will help older ones, too
10:27 JST, January 18, 2022
The year 2022 is expected to continue to pose challenges for Japan in terms of the pandemic, foreign affairs, the economy and other issues. This is the fifth installment in a series of articles on how authoritative figures in various fields view such topics. The following is excerpted from remarks by trend critic Megumi Ushikubo in a recent Yomiuri Shimbun interview.
Feelings of insecurity
I have been interviewing younger people and researching their consumption behavior and lifestyles for many years, but ideas are emerging now that would have been unthinkable in previous generations.
People in their 30s and younger are becoming increasingly cautious about consumption, and members of Generation Z (see below), which covers people in their late teens to late 20s, in particular have a remarkable tendency to think about the medium and long term in everything they buy and do.
Memories of the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred when they were children are burned into their minds, and the novel coronavirus pandemic happened just when they were starting their school and work lives.
They somewhat feel that “whatever happens in society or in life can’t be helped.”
For example, college students nowadays are starting to browse job-changing sites as soon as they receive informal job offers.
They look at their lives objectively, in that they feel uneasy relying on just one option, so they try to prepare a plan B.
They try to pick the best options by taking a comprehensive, bird’s-eye view of information about life, work and hobbies, which they obtain through social media and other channels, and they make their personal connections in the same way.
Going without ‘things’
In terms of consumption, the idea that “it’s better not to have things” is becoming increasingly established.
They have gotten used to using the sharing economy, such as by making use of a car without buying one, or getting subscriptions for services and products for a set period of time or a fixed amount.
On the other hand, they willingly give donations that contribute to [the United Nations’] Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and also engage in consumption toward that end.
The pandemic and the increasing digitization of our lives have only served to strengthen young people’s modes of thinking and consumption.
A key word for understanding Generation Z is “normal.”
They have seen how difficult it is to maintain a normal life in the pandemic and have started feeling that normal is best.
For example, because of their vague anxiety about the future and because they see change as risk, they tend to want realistic things with continuity and stability, and to seek peace of mind.
That is probably why the Liberal Democratic Party, which has been in power for so long, has such strong support among Gen Z and other young people.
Many young people say they support the LDP because the opposition parties only criticize the government and do not offer concrete policies.
For the opposition parties to win this generation’s support, they must propose and implement some kind of policy, no matter how small. The opposition parties will also need to “visualize” their achievements through social media and other channels.
‘Employment ice age’
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s “new form of capitalism” aims to correct disparities by focusing on redistribution to young people and households with children.
Of course, it is important for politicians to shine light on these people.
Yet in a more fundamental sense, maybe we should look more at the “baby boomer junior” generation, which is the parent generation to Gen Z and is considered the most unlucky generation.
This “junior” generation is a large cohort who are the children of the baby boomers and in general have had little leeway to take on mortgages and educational expenses.
This is also the generation of the “employment ice age” and includes many who have never married or had children, and are thus at risk of becoming isolated in the future.
Strategic support for this generation, which makes up the largest share of the population, will benefit both their children and the baby boomers. Specifically, social security policies such as housing assistance that makes use of vacant homes should be considered.
While government resources are limited, we urgently need to create a society in which people can support each other across generations through nursing and childcare.
Remote working has become more common during the pandemic, and if the central government continues to promote teleworking, it will help young people, including members of Gen Z, who are under pressure from having to care for family members.
I believe this will also help the generations above them avoid leaving their jobs to provide nursing care.
This mainly refers to young people who are now in university or recently entered the workforce. They are called Generation Z because they are younger than Generation X, which refers to people born from 1965 to 1980 and Generation Y (around 1981 to 1995). Generation X was named after a best-selling Canadian novel of the same name.
Megumi Ushikubo was born in Tokyo in 1968. After working for a major publishing company and other jobs, she founded the marketing company Infinity Inc. in 2001. Her analysis of consumer and market trends created the buzzwords “ohitorisama” (solitary customer) and “soshoku danshi” (herbivorous man). She has an MBA from Rikkyo University and has been a visiting professor there since 2020.
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