World’s Gloomiest Millennials is in Japan, Finds a Study

Japan, where millennials rank as the gloomiest of those in the world’s biggest economies, youthful optimism can be hard to find.

Young adults in Japan are the most pessimistic in 18 countries surveyed by ManpowerGroup, as fewer than 40 percent of young adults in Japan see bright futures and successful careers ahead compared with a majority of them in its trading partners. The surveyors are even more downbeat than young Greeks. Many of them have suffered Great Depression-like conditions and political upheaval in recent years.

Young Japanese are far from bullish even as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tries to engineer an economic revival. The economy already and poses challenges for the future is weighed down by this.

With more than a third of them likely headed for a series of lower-paying dead-end jobs on the less desirable side of the nation’s dual labor market, Japanese millennials face a future of paying to care for one of the world’s most rapidly growing elderly populations. Then there’s a public debt burden that ranks among the world’s biggest.

The 20-somethings are already concerned about life after retirement and scrimping to save for the future since they are skeptical that the nation’s pension system will be around to take care of them. Marriage, home-buying and child-rearing are being postponed by many due to low and stagnant pay. The ManpowerGroup survey found that about 37 percent expect to work until they die.

Realization of Abe’s vision of a “great entrepreneurial nation” requires the “animal spirits” and young Japanese show little of that, preferring security. According to a survey of recently employed people by the Japan Productivity Center, younger workers are the least inclined to strike out on their own in more than a decade.

“Millennials, if they can, they want to join a major company. If you can join a big company when you’re young, it’s more stable,” said Daisuke Oya, 23, who works in a cardboard factory as a machine operator.

Randall Jones, head of the Japan-Korea desk at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said that kind of thinking is a “very big concern”.

Young Japanese have a “fixation on working for large companies or the government,” he said.

The OECD says that changing such attitudes is necessary to drive the innovation and productivity growth needed to sustain rising living standards as the population shrinks and is a key challenge for Japan, which ranks low in entrepreneurship globally. Jones said that Japan lacks enough entrepreneurs to make full use of the abundant patents and piles of idle corporate cash existent in the country.

According to a survey this year by the Meiji Yasuda Institute of Life and Wellness, with many citing low pay as the reason, the percentage of men and women in their 20s who want to get married has fallen sharply over the past three years, to 39 percent of men and 59 percent of women.

Japan’s dual labor market, which keeps wages down while raising job insecurity, is the source of much of their struggles. According to Hiroaki Miyamoto, a University of Tokyo associate professor, this also limits opportunities for employees to develop skills, which in the long term will hurt the economy.

(Adapted from Bloomberg)

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