The diet is hearing a proposal which would seek to aggressively eliminate the phenomenon of NEETs and hikikomori shut-ins, forcing them to “participate in society” (earn a taxable income), and seeking to cure them of whatever ill it is which stops them holding a regular job like everyone else.
The proposed law, tentatively dubbed the “Young Persons Support Law”, will go before the Diet in 2009, with proponents citing the possibility of NEET numbers increasing in the poor economic climate.
The previous measures instituted by the labour ministry included “Regional Young Persons Support Stations”, where NEETs and hikikomori could be told to get a proper job, but as these stations actually required the shut-ins to physically leave their homes and come to the station, they are regarded as being completely ineffective.
The new measures will see the state tracking NEETs and hikikomori, and then dispatching specialists (“youth advisors”, doctors and probation officers are mentioned) to herd them into work, enlisting the aid of their parents if they do not live alone.
It is not clear what powers the scheme will grant when the targets do not want to be helped into drudgery, but it seems unlikely to allow anything more than mild but persistent harassment by the “specialists”.
Rozen Aso has this to say: “With this new law we plan to furnish troubled young people with independence, and extend a helping hand to them”.
There are thought to be some 620,000 NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) in Japan, not including the hated freeters (people working only part-time) or the almost as disdained unemployed; the actual population of hikikomori is largely unknown, having only been guessed at and then fretted about in the mass media, but is likely to be only in the thousands or tens of thousands.
Both the Japanese and international media have fretted about hikikomori extensively, but no statistical evidence has yet been presented to suggest that the problem in Japan is actually widespread, or that it is any more common than with similar (but ignored) socially withdrawn individuals in other countries.
An unwarranted intrusion of the state into the private lives of its citizens, or a valiant effort to reach out to the socially marginalised?
Whatever the case, it’s clear the government needs the extra tax revenue desperately if it is to pay the pensions of an aging society which cunningly voted itself an overly generous welfare state, and it can make a start on this by making these young deviants work to that end…