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HOME  > Past issues  > 2022 January 5 - 11  > During pandemic, young people develop awareness of need for shift from neoliberalism
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2022 January 5 - 11 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

During pandemic, young people develop awareness of need for shift from neoliberalism

January 10, 2022
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

In Japan, the second Monday of January is Coming-of-Age Day, a national holiday to celebrate turning 20 years old and legally be considered an adult. Many young people are currently experiencing hardships due to the coronavirus crisis which has starkly revealed the coldness and vulnerability of living in Japanese society. Compared to 20 years ago, how has the situation affecting young people changed?

Over the past two decades, workers’ annual real earnings decreased by more than 400,000 yen and the percentage of contingency workers increased to 40% from 30%. Due to the weakening of social programs that fundamentally support people’s livelihoods and a sustainable economy, Japan has been considered the most “unviable nation” among developed countries. A survey by the Association of Private University Unions in the Tokyo Area indicates that the amount of remittances from parents to private university students to help with living expenses decreased by 30,000 yen a month, and continues to hit record lows.

Excessively high tuition fees at schools and universities impose a heavy burden on students and their parents. In the past 20 years, the percentage of government spending on tertiary education fell from 42% to 32%, half of the average in the developed world. Accordingly, the cost of education has cut into household budgets. With the 1999 revision of the loan-type scholarship program, students using this program face millions of yen in debts immediately after they finish their college degree, which leads to the further imposition of paying back the loans with interests on young people.

For the past 20 years, working a part-time job to cover daily expenses has become very common among university students. In the pre-pandemic period, the number of students who work part-time even during the school year doubled compared to 20 years ago, accounting for more than 70% of all students. Since the pandemic started, more and more students have lost their part-time jobs and some have been become unable to afford enough food to eat.

There is no future for a society in which young people cannot learn without anxieties and are deprived of opportunities to develop their abilities and potential. The need is to shift from neoliberal policies under which public responsibilities toward education and welfare have been abandoned, and intensive competition and self-responsibility have been imposed on the general public.

However, the feeling of power to change society has spread among young people. The Democratic Youth League of Japan provided food assistance to more than 100,000 students. Among them, motivated by the desire to help people in need, some students joined the DYLJ. The solidarity of young people working to break away from the curse of neoliberalism and change the society is growing.
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