Japan from the inside out

Freeters, freeloaders, and the political opposition

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, May 8, 2007

WITH NOTHING TO LOSE but their chains, the “freeters”, Japan’s term for temporary workers that hop from job to job, have formed a labor union. They held a demonstration last week that was covered by the Japan Times:

Temporary workers known as “freeters” and other dissatisfied laborers gathered Monday in Tokyo to demand a better work environment and higher wages, arguing government policies have caused many of them to settle for low-paying jobs and an unsteady life.

“I had my heart set on taking the civil service exam, but those government policies forced me to take this job restocking the potato chip shelf on the night shift at the 7-Eleven. It’s the government’s fault, so they should double my salary immediately.”

Motoaki Yamaguchi, a member of PAFF, or Part-Timer, Arbeiter, Freeter & Foreign Worker, a union for such part-timers, blamed the government’s policies for creating a society characterized by a handful of rich and people who have jobs but cannot escape poverty.

Let’s see…there’s a handful of rich…the working poor…and the other 97% of us.

It’s possible that he’s right and government policies are to blame. It’s too bad he never actually gets around to blaming a specific government policy so we can decide.

“This is a day of uprising,” he told the gathering in Shinjuku Ward of some 200 people…

…who briefly considered storming the Diet Building, but then decided it was too much effort and forgot about it entirely.

“The right to live must not be monopolized by those who have the ability (to obtain a full-time job),” a statement released at the event said

Yes, I’ve noticed how those of us with the ability to obtain full-time jobs go out of our way to make sure no one else lives.

…adding the government should abolish low wages and extensive work time while guaranteeing that everyone has the right to a proper life and an adequate wage.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see what sort of bureaucracy a government could create to ensure that everyone had a “proper life”?

We already know what sort of bureaucracies governments create when they decide everyone should get the same salary and not work too hard. Well, those of us over the age of 25 do.

Many later joined a demonstration march through Shinjuku to commemorate May Day.

Now that’s a successful strategy for bettering your lot in life.

Speaking as a guest, Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, criticized the policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, saying, “All men and women should be treated fairly and have the right to live the life they choose…

Well, judging from the photo that accompanies the article, the union rank and file are exercising their right to live the life they choose. For example, take a look at the guy with the Mohawk haircut. I don’t think Abe Shinzo forced that hairstyle on him. Not to mention those clothes.

On the other hand, the people who want to work at jobs that pay serious money get serious haircuts first. You know, it’s like how society works, and all.

Unless there’s some top-secret government law in Japan I don’t know about that mandates everyone with Mohawk haircuts be treated unfairly.

On second thought, he doesn’t even have to get a serious haircut–just a semi-serious one. I see a lot of gainfully employed young men wearing jackets and ties walking around with that manga hairdo. You know the one I mean–longish and a bit scruffy, sticks out here and there, doesn’t require a comb, but still takes 15 minutes of pinching and twirling and teasing in front of a mirror to get it just right.

“Mr. Abe prattles on that he is trying to build a beautiful country, but that’s far from the reality,” she said. “We must adjust his policies.”

Silly me. Here I was wondering why the Japan Times covered a demonstration of 200 freeters in the greater Tokyo area, with a population estimated at more than 30 million, addressed by the head of what used to be the Socialist Party, whose approval rating hovers at about 3% in the polls, and ran an article about it at the top of Page 2 in their print edition.

They thought it was more important than an article about Japan’s leak of Aegis missile system information and another article previewing the meeting in Kyoto on Saturday of finance ministers from 13 Asian countries.

It’s all about the July Upper House elections. The opposition can’t find competent, appealing people to lead their parties, and is incapable of devising coherent policies that resonate with the public. (In a way, they resemble the freeters—they don’t have the ability to find full-time jobs in the executive branch of government.)

In the recent Tokyo gubernatorial election, the primary opposition party didn’t even field a candidate until the last minute. And they had four years to find someone to run for one of the most visible political jobs in the country.

So this time around, they’re trying class warfare. They’ve been “prattling on” about Japan’s growing income differential for a couple of years now.

I don’t think that’ll work either. After all, look at who they’re trying to attract.

3 Responses to “Freeters, freeloaders, and the political opposition”

  1. Jon said

    I look forward to when the NEETERS for a union.

  2. Paul said

    Unfortunately, even Japan has its share of Marxists. It’s amusing that they think the government can raise everyone’s wages. The government can put people out of work though, and that’s what they’ll accomplish if their ideas succeed.

  3. G700 said

    in Greece the term describing the generation of young people, aged between 25 and 35, who are underpaid, overworked , insecure, debt ridden and usually live at home, is “Generation 700 euros”.

    G700 is a blog dealing with this very issue.

    We are certainly not marxist. We rather try to build an agenda that promotes common sense politics and practical solutions, drawing conclusions and using what is most useful from traditional partizan politics and ideologies.

    The social phenomenon of a young generation like the G700’s in Greece and the freeters in Japan is quite widespread nowaday in Europe.

    In the UK they call them the IPOD generation (Insecure, Pressured, Overtaxed and Debt-ridden)

    In Italy they call them Generazione 1000 euros.

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