Unemployment increases in Japan while political elites focus on the Olympics

Unemployment increases in Japan while political elites focus on the Olympics

Kanako Mita and Sawako Uchida

Modern Tokyo Times

The government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is wasting too much energy and time on focusing on preserving the Olympics. Thus, endless State of Emergencies to quasi-measures are never-ending in the worst-hit parts of Japan. Therefore, the feeling is that the government – and the Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike – are focused on preserving the Olympics rather than protecting employment, helping the marginalized, and the working poor.

Statistics never tell the true story in any nation. Hence many people slip the net of government support. Also, the repaying of tax – while continuing to pay housing costs and local government tax- hits people claiming unemployment-related benefits. Thus with a working system that utilizes the working poor, temporary contract workers, abuses individuals entering retirement age at companies with limited rights, and over employs women in lesser-skilled jobs based on gender discrimination – the situation was already problematic before the coronavirus crisis began.

Officially, the unemployment rate increased from 2.6 percent in March to 3 percent in May. This is low by many international standards. However, like previously mentioned, it hides the hidden working poor and others blighted by a system that is persistently reducing the rights of workers. Also, the inadequate unemployment safety-net – and people having to pay back taxes during a time of financial hardship – mean people are pressurized into taking lesser jobs.

The coronavirus crisis for better-protected workers is also hitting hard at many companies. This concerns reduced (or no) bonuses, lesser working hours, and the ending of perks. For example, travel subsidies are no longer paid. Therefore, many companies are putting pressure on older workers to leave voluntarily – and often this concerns corporate bullying.

Similarly, some companies are keeping new retirement-aged workers on to reduce costs by reducing their wages, in the knowledge that vast numbers of people fear having no main income and knowing that finding new well-paid work is extremely difficult. Therefore, age discrimination, reducing perks, and other negative angles are being used to cover up the employment cracks that remain unseen by simplistic percentage points.

Overall, it seems that Japanese individuals have to fend for themselves because the welfare system is extremely minimal for people already marginalized. Hence, with 130,000 lesser jobs in May – and officially over two million unemployed – and millions of working poor – it is galling that the government of Japan isn’t providing economic assistance to help millions of people who are struggling.

Vast sums have been spent on the Olympics. Thus lockdowns in Tokyo and other prefectures – along with quasi measures in recent months – appear aimed at holding the Olympics at all costs. Equally, government stimulus packages – just like in other nations – seem to have boosted the wealthy share owning class and companies that heavily invest in the stock market.

Lee Jay Walker says, “Concerning the working poor, temporary workers, and others already marginalized, the endless coronavirus crisis is causing enormous economic and mental health convulsions. Likewise, the capitalist system is utilizing the crisis to reduce the rights of workers even further. Therefore, the rich are getting richer on inflated stocks while the poor are getting poorer.”

Soon images will show gold medal winners in various sports and famous athletes in Tokyo. However, for the majority of people in Japan, it is a mirage to the problems faced by ordinary workers who seek to survive the coronavirus convulsions – and the erosion of working rights.

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