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No. 31 — August 11, 2000

Feature Article

"PARASITE SINGLES" &emdash; A UNIQUELY JAPANESE PHENOMENON?

Hiroyuki Takahashi and Jeanette Voss

Summary

The numbers of "parasite singles" — young adults who are employed but who continue to live as dependents in their parents' homes — are on the rise in Japan. Masahiro Yamada, associate professor at Tokyo Gakugei University, has identified this phenomenon as the dominant trend among young people in Japan today. Certain aspects of the Japanese economy and society have encouraged adult children to choose this living arrangement over marriage or independent living. Parents, as well, have a number of motives to go along with their childrens' choices.

Adult children in Western Europe and the United States also are delaying their departure from the parental home. From an international perspective, the percentage of adults in Japan who live with parents is not as pronounced or so unusual as Mr. Yamada appears to believe. Nonetheless, this demographic shift in Japan has, for many young people, delayed the transition to the next stage of life and has affected labor markets and demand. Furthermore, the delay contributes to the decline in birth rates — a trend that has many analysts worried about a labor shortage in the future. Mr. Yamada blames these parasite singles for societal and economic problems in Japan. Other analysts have pointed out that this trend is just the Japanese version of the tough choices between career and family faced by the women and men in every industrial country.

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Weekly Review

JAPAN'S ECONOMIC INDICATORS POINTING UP
--- by Douglas Ostrom

The Japanese economy continues to show steady improvement. In fact, the gross domestic product might have managed to eke out a gain in the quarter that ended June 30 despite the 10 percent annualized surge recorded in the January-March period (see JEI Report No. 23B, June 16, 2000), the starting point for the calculation of the spring GDP statistics. Of course, many problems remain. Moreover, the prognosis for the economy over the medium term is a good deal less upbeat than the outlook for the next few months.

 

JAPANESE FINANCIAL REGULATION ENTERS NEW PHASE
--- by Jon Choy

Japan's top financial regulatory body suffered another blow to its reputation July 30 when Financial Reconstruction Minister Kimitaka Kuze resigned under a cloud of suspicion that the benefits and the fees that he had received over seven years from Mitsubishi Trust & Banking Corp. and in 1991 from condominium builder Daikyo Inc. had influenced his judgment (see JEI Report No. 30B, August 4, 2000). Counting Mr. Kuze's successor, the Financial Reconstruction Commission has had four chiefs in less than a year, two of whom have left in disgrace.

 

MATURING DEPOSITS REMAINING IN JAPAN'S POSTAL SAVINGS SYSTEM
--- by Arthur J. Alexander

Some ¥100 trillion ($909.1 billion at ¥110=$1.00) in guaranteed high-yield postal savings deposits — so-called teigaku accounts — will reach maturity in the 24 months that began this past April. In that month alone, the peak period for maturing accounts, an estimated ¥5.9 trillion ($53.6 billion) came up for grabs. The flow of money into and out of the postal savings system is important to Japan and, given its scale, to financial markets everywhere.

 

JDA WHITE PAPER URGES CONTINUED MONITORING OF NORTH KOREA, CHINA
--- by Barbara Wanner

The Japan Defense Agency's 2000 review of regional and global security concerns, released July 28, reiterated the warning included in last year's white paper that North Korea continues to pose a threat to regional stability. However, the tone of this message was less urgent than in the 1999 report (see JEI Report No. 30B, August 6, 1999). JDA welcomed the groundbreaking summit in mid-June between North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, noting that tensions on the Korean peninsula may continue to ease as this dialogue develops further. Nonetheless, the contributors to the report remain wary of Pyongyang's designs. They stated that "it is necessary to monitor carefully how the development of dialogue would be linked to the relaxation of the military confrontation on the peninsula as well as to the resolution of such issues as North Korea's suspected nuclear arms and ballistic missile development."

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