Responsibility of politics for the increase in suicides -- Akahata editorial, July 26 (Abridged)

The number of people who committed suicide last year was 34,527, the highest ever and an increase of 2,200 from the previous year (source: National Police Agency).

A striking feature is a sharp increase of 12 percent in the number of suicides among people in their forties and fifties due to economic reasons.

The number of suicides exceeded 30,000 for the first time in 1998 when the Hashimoto Cabinet forced people to pay an additional 9 trillion yen for the consumption tax rate increase and shoulder other burdens, with the result that the nation experienced a downturn in the economy.

Under the "structural reform" policy of the Koizumi Cabinet, the unemployment rate has turned from bad to worse. During the last three years, more than 53,000 small- and medium-sized businesses went bankrupt. Business failures have thus driven many people to choose death?

Although Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro boasts of the economic recovery, the record suicide figure shows that his "reform" policy has claimed an irretrievable human toll.

The government slashed unemployment benefits, and allowed banks to refuse to lend money to small- and medium-sized businesses and force borrowers to repay loans. It also adversely revised social services systems including medical service and pension systems, endangering the "lifeline" for the people.

Another feature is an increase in the suicides due to health reasons, reflecting a sharp rise in depression and other mental disorders caused by overwork and work-related stress among workers, including younger workers.

Behind this is a work environment in which corporate restructuring has brought about excessive workloads for reduced personnel who have to face strong mental stress under the prevalent "performance-based wage system."

The increasing suicides in Japan is extraordinary in the world. The number of suicides per 100,000 population is 27.0 in Japan, next only to Russia among 18 major countries, which is two or three times more than U.S. and European countries. This comparison reveals how difficult it is for people to live in Japanese society.

Suicides among people in their prime of life traumatize their bereaved families.

The need now is for a change of politics to one of caring for people's living conditions and helping people in plight. (end)

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