Record numbers of young Japanese are choosing to kill themselves rather than face the prospect of becoming dirty NEETs, according to police suicide statistics, with their numbers more than doubling in the last 4 years.
Police began collecting statistics on how many young people killed themselves because of difficulties finding work in 2007, and since then there has been a 250% increase, to 159 in 2011.
Of the 150, 52 were actual students, 41 of whom were at university and 4 of whom were high school students.
Police determined suicide motives through interviews with families and the content of suicide notes, leaving some scope for the true number to be even higher.
The financial crisis, strong yen and recent spate of disasters are all identified as the most immediate indirect causes of the increases, with the direct cause being higher rates of rejection for smaller graduate intakes and greatly lengthened job searches.
Suicide has been the leading cause of death for young Japanese for some time, but whilst overwork after getting a job has long been seen as a major cause of this, Japanese killing themselves just because they cannot find decent job offers is thought to be a new trend.
The career path and subsequent life of most Japanese has traditionally been seen as being determined almost entirely by two events in their youth – their final high school exam results, determining which university they can get into (university life is regarded as a vacation between the horrors of Japanese school and work), and the graduation job offer they secure whilst interviewing in their last year of university.
As a result, pressure in both these periods is incredibly intense, and even more so when job offers for graduates are scarce and salaries pitifully low – the increasing numbers who fail to become salaryman drudges or pampered civil servants face a lifetime of poverty and humiliation (as well as bachelorhood in the case of men) as dispatch workers, “freeters” or – worst of all – NEETs.
The “NEET” (Not in Education, Employment or Training) label originated as a piece of innocent bureaucratic jargon in the UK, but was somehow picked up by the Japanese media and soon turned into the ultimate term of disparagement for feckless young people and social failures.
Unsurprisingly, 2ch’s substantial NEET component is mystified as to why anyone would chose death over joining their ranks, although the more gainfully employed seem to concur that a lifetime as a servile and poorly paid drudge is indeed preferable to one as a freeloading layabout who divides their time between trolling on 2ch and watching anime:
“Death is actually preferable to becoming a NEET!”
“Why is the Japanese race so obsessed with what other people think of them?”
“They chose death rather than a life of unsightliness. Truly, this is a mirror on the Jap character.”
“At least they could have burned themselves to death on the genkan of the companies which rejected them!”
“If I were to become a NEET, I’d off myself! A life with no goals, just leeching off your parents – that is worse than being a corpse!”
“Since graduating I’ve spent over a year looking for work… all I’ve had is a bit of part-time work to distract me. It’s tough for kids today.”
“It’s hard having that much pride.”
“For a university graduate, death is probably preferable to living your life out as a NEET.”
“There was a time when it was actually nice to be a salaryman as well…”
“Won’t having been a NEET damage your career track?”
“Killing yourself because you can’t find work is imbecilic. Abandon all your brainwashing and try looking in another developed country! You can change your values!”
“I’m sure many of the ones killing themselves were scum anyway, useless wretches whose only abundant attribute was their pride! When confronted with the inescapable reality of their failure to get a post, they just couldn’t stand it.”
“I think some of them were suicide candidates and would have killed themselves anyway. This was just the event that triggered it first. The real cause was something more fundamental.”
“Japanese can only judge themselves through the evaluations of others. Judge yourself, by yourself! Ignore the self-serving naysayers! There are too many of these slaves around.”
“Well, if you can’t get a job just after graduating, your future prospects are very dim. If your family blames you for your failure, you might well choose death.”
“If it was tiresome, killing yourself might be the way out. Being brave and sticking to it could be tiring.”
“They maintained their pride as human beings. A wise man cornered would choose death rather than a life as a mere idle NEET.”
“NEETs don’t even have the courage to die!”
“You guys would amount to the same whether dead or alive – that’s the ultimate in shame.”
“When did just having a job become such a virtue? It’s like we were infected by communism or something.”
“This is a test of your true character. If you can live on, anything might happen.”