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【纽约时报】身处边缘的日本年轻一代

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小编摘要:在日本,这个成熟经济体中,正需要年轻人来创造新的产品,新的公司和新的行业,推动经济增长之际,社会却在打压和边缘化他们的年轻一代。

Kenichi Horie was a promising auto engineer, exactly the sort of youthful talent Japan needs to maintain its edge over hungry Korean and Chinese rivals. As a worker in his early 30s at a major carmaker, Mr. Horie won praise for his design work on advanced biofuel systems.

But like many young Japanese, he was a so-called irregular worker, kept on a temporary staff contract with little of the job security and half the salary of the “regular” employees, most of them workers in their late 40s or older. After more than a decade of trying to gain regular status, Mr. Horie finally quit — not just the temporary jobs, but Japan altogether.

He moved to Taiwan two years ago to study Chinese.

“Japanese companies are wasting the young generations to protect older workers,” said Mr. Horie, now 36. “In Japan, they closed the doors on me. In Taiwan, they tell me I have a perfect résumé.”

As this fading economic superpower rapidly grays, it desperately needs to increase productivity and unleash the entrepreneurial energies of its shrinking number of younger people. But Japan seems to be doing just the opposite. This has contributed to weak growth and mounting pension obligations, major reasons Standard & Poor’s downgraded Japan’s sovereign debt rating on Thursday.

“There is a feeling among young generations that no matter how hard we try, we can’t get ahead,” said Shigeyuki Jo, 36, co-author of “The Truth of Generational Inequalities.” “Every avenue seems to be blocked, like we’re butting our heads against a wall.”

An aging population is clogging the nation’s economy with the vested interests of older generations, young people and social experts warn, making an already hierarchical society even more rigid and conservative. The result is that Japan is holding back and marginalizing its youth at a time when it actually needs them to help create the new products, companies and industries that a mature economy requires to grow.

A nation that produced Sony, Toyota and Honda has failed in recent decades to nurture young entrepreneurs, and the game-changing companies that they can create, like Google or Apple — each started by entrepreneurs in their 20s.

Employment figures underscore the second-class status of many younger Japanese. While Japan’s decades of stagnation have increased the number of irregular jobs across all age groups, the young have been hit the hardest.

Last year, 45 percent of those ages 15 to 24 in the work force held irregular jobs, up from 17.2 percent in 1988 and as much as twice the rate among workers in older age groups, who cling tenaciously to the old ways. Japan’s news media are now filled with grim accounts of how university seniors face a second “ice age” in the job market, with just 56.7 percent receiving job offers before graduation as of October 2010 — an all-time low.

“Japan has the worst generational inequality in the world,” said Manabu Shimasawa, a professor of social policy at Akita University who has written extensively on such inequalities. “Japan has lost its vitality because the older generations don’t step aside, allowing the young generations a chance to take new challenges and grow.”

Disparities and Dangers

While many nations have aging populations, Japan’s demographic crisis is truly dire, with forecasts showing that 40 percent of the population will be 65 and over by 2055. Some of the consequences have been long foreseen, like deflation: as more Japanese retire and live off their savings, they spend less, further depressing Japan’s anemic levels of domestic consumption. But a less anticipated outcome has been the appearance of generational inequalities.

These disparities manifest themselves in many ways. As Mr. Horie discovered, there are corporations that hire all too many young people for low-paying, dead-end jobs — in effect, forcing them to shoulder the costs of preserving cushier jobs for older employees. Others point to an underfinanced pension system so skewed in favor of older Japanese that many younger workers simply refuse to pay; a “silver democracy” that spends far more on the elderly than on education and child care — an issue that is familiar to Americans; and outdated hiring practices that have created a new “lost generation” of disenfranchised youth.

Nagisa Inoue, a senior at Tokyo’s Meiji University, said she was considering paying for a fifth year at her university rather than graduating without a job, an outcome that in Japan’s rigid job market might permanently taint her chances of ever getting a higher-paying corporate job. That is because Japanese companies, even when they do offer stable, regular jobs, prefer to give them only to new graduates, who are seen as the more malleable candidates for molding into Japan’s corporate culture.

And the irony, Ms. Inoue said, is that she does not even want to work at a big corporation. She would rather join a nonprofit environmental group, but that would also exclude her from getting a so-called regular job.

“I’d rather have the freedom to try different things,” said Ms. Inoue, 22. “But in Japan, the costs of doing something different are just too high.”

Many social experts say a grim economy has added to the pressures to conform to Japan’s outdated, one-size-fits-all employment system. An online survey by students at Meiji University of people across Japan ages 18 to 22 found that two-thirds felt that youths did not take risks or new challenges, and that they instead had become a generation of “introverts” who were content or at least resigned to living a life without ambition.

“There is a mismatch between the old system and the young generations,” said Yuki Honda, a professor of education at the University of Tokyo. “Many young Japanese don’t want the same work-dominated lifestyles of their parents’ generation, but they have no choices.”

Facing a rising public uproar, the Welfare Ministry responded late last year by advising employers to recognize someone as a new graduate for up to three years after graduation. It also offers subsidies of up to 1.8 million yen, or about $22,000 per person, to large companies that offer so-called regular jobs to new graduates.

But perhaps nowhere are the roadblocks to youthful enterprise so evident, and the consequences to the Japanese economy so dire, as in the failure of entrepreneurship.

The nation had just 19 initial public offerings in 2009, according to Tokyo-based Next Company, compared with 66 in the United States. More telling is that even Japan’s entrepreneurs are predominantly from older generations: according to the Trade Ministry, just 9.1 percent of Japanese entrepreneurs in 2002 were in their 20s, compared with 25 percent in the United States.

“Japan has become a zero-sum game,” said Yuichiro Itakura, a failed Internet entrepreneur who wrote a book about his experience. “Established interests are afraid a young newcomer will steal what they have, so they won’t do business with him.”

Many Japanese economists and policy makers have long talked of fostering entrepreneurship as the best remedy for Japan’s economic ills. And it is an idea that has a historical precedent here: as the nation rose from the ashes of World War II, young Japanese entrepreneurs produced a host of daring start-ups that overturned entire global industries.

Entrepreneur’s Rise and Fall

But many here say that Japan’s economy has ossified since its glory days, and that the nation now produces few if any such innovative companies. To understand why, many here point to the fate of one of the nation’s best-known Internet tycoons, Takafumi Horie.

When he burst onto the national scene early in the last decade, he was the most un-Japanese of business figures: an impish young man in his early 30s who wore T-shirts into boardrooms, brazenly flouted the rules by starting hostile takeovers and captured an era when a rejuvenated Japanese economy seemed to finally be rebounding. He was arrested five years ago and accused of securities fraud in what seemed a classic case of comeuppance, with the news media demonizing him as a symbol of an unsavory, freewheeling American-style capitalism.

In 2007, a court found him guilty of falsifying company records, a ruling that he is appealing. But in dozens of interviews, young Japanese brought him up again and again as a way of explaining their generation’s malaise. To them, he symbolized something very different: a youthful challenger who was crushed by a reactionary status quo. His arrest, they said, was a warning to all of them not to rock the boat.

“It was a message that it is better to quietly and obediently follow the established conservative order,” Mr. Horie, now 37, wrote in an e-mail.

He remains for many a popular, if almost subversive figure in Japan, where he is once again making waves by unrepentantly battling the charges in court, instead of meekly accepting the judgment, as do most of those arrested. He now has more than a half-million followers on Twitter, more than the prime minister, and publicly urges people to challenge the system.

“Horie has been the closest thing we had to a role model,” said Noritoshi Furuichi, a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of Tokyo who wrote a book about how young Japanese were able to remain happy while losing hope. “He represents a struggle between old Japan and new Japan.”

Mr. Furuichi and many other young Japanese say that young people here do not react with anger or protest, instead blaming themselves and dropping out, or with an almost cheerful resignation, trying to find contentment with horizons that are far more limited than their parents’.

In such an atmosphere, young politicians say it is hard to mobilize their generation to get interested in politics.

Ryohei Takahashi was a young city council member in the Tokyo suburb of Ichikawa who joined a group of other young politicians and activists in issuing a “Youth Manifesto,” which urged younger Japanese to stand up for their interests.

In late 2009, he made a bid to become the city’s mayor on a platform of shifting more spending toward young families and education. However, few younger people showed an interest in voting, and he ended up trying to cater to the city’s most powerful voting blocs: retirees and local industries like construction, all dominated by leaders in their 50s and 60s.

“Aging just further empowers older generations,” said Mr. Takahashi, 33. “In sheer numbers, they win hands down.”

He lost the election, which he called a painful lesson that Japan was becoming a “silver democracy,” where most budgets and spending heavily favored older generations.

Social experts say the need to cut soaring budget deficits means that younger Japanese will never receive the level of benefits enjoyed by retirees today. Calculations show that a child born today can expect to receive up to $1.2 million less in pensions, health care and other government spending over the course of his life than someone retired today; in the national pension system alone, this gap reaches into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Abandoning the System

The result is that young Japanese are fleeing the program in droves: half of workers below the age of 35 now fail to make their legally mandated payments, even though that means they must face the future with no pension at all. “In France, the young people take to the streets,” Mr. Takahashi said. “In Japan, they just don’t pay.”

Or they drop out, as did many in Japan’s first “lost generation” a decade ago.

One was Kyoko, who was afraid to give her last name for fear it would further damage her job prospects. Almost a decade ago, when she was a junior at Waseda University here, she was expected to follow postwar Japan’s well-trodden path to success by finding a job at a top corporation. She said she started off on the right foot, trying to appear enthusiastic at interviews without being strongly opinionated — the balance that appeals to Japanese employers, who seek hard-working conformists.

But after interviewing at 10 companies, she said she suffered a minor nervous breakdown, and stopped. She said she realized that she did not want to become an overworked corporate warrior like her father.

By failing to get such a job before graduating, Kyoko was forced to join the ranks of the “freeters” — an underclass of young people who hold transient, lower-paying irregular jobs. Since graduating in 2004 she has held six jobs, none of them paying unemployment insurance, pension or a monthly salary of more than 150,000 yen, or about $1,800.

“I realized that wasn’t who I wanted to be,” recalled Kyoko, now 29. “But why has being myself cost me so dearly?”


堀江谦一是一位很有前途的汽车工程师。面对来自韩国和中国汽车业同行虎视眈眈的竞争,堀江谦一正是那种日本汽车业需要的年轻才俊。在三十出头时,他曾在一家大型汽车生产厂里工作。由他设计的高级生物燃料系统,受到了人们称赞。

但是,和很多日本年轻人一样,他只是一个所谓的“临时工”,和公司签订了临时雇用合同,毫无职业上的保障,而薪水也只有“固定工”的一半。固定工群体中大部分人的年纪都接近50岁或者更老。为了能取得一个固定工的位置,堀江为此打拼了十多年。然而,他最终不但放弃了临时工的职位,而且还离开了日本。

两年前,他搬到了台湾,开始学习中文。

“日本公司为了保护老职工的利益,而不惜浪费年轻一代的员工。”36岁的堀江说道。“在日本,我被他们拒之门外。而到了台湾,那些公司都说我的简历很优秀。”

这个经济衰退中超级大国,人口正在迅速老龄化,日本急需提高生产力,释放那些数量越来越少的,年轻人的创业活力。然而,日本的现状却似乎正在背道而驰。使得日本经济增长乏力,而养老金负担日益增长。这也是标准普尔公司在本周四下调日本主权债务评级的主要原因。

“日本年轻一代中间弥漫着这样的情绪,就是不管我们工作多么卖力,我们也无法取得成功。”重幸说。他今年36岁,是《代际间不平等的真相》(The Truth of Generational Inequalities)一书的作者之一。“年轻一代的所有上升渠道都被堵死了,撞个头破血流也没有用。”

老一代人享受着既得利益,而老龄化的人口正阻碍着这个国家的经济发展。日本年轻人和专家都提醒,这种现象会让原本等级分明的日本社会,变得更加僵化和保守。结果在日本,这个成熟经济体中,正需要年轻人来创造新的产品,新的公司和新的行业,推动经济增长之际,社会却在打压和边缘化他们的年轻一代。

一个曾经创立了索尼,丰田和本田这些品牌的国家,在最近几十年来,再也没有培养出年轻的企业家;或者涌现出类似谷歌或者苹果那样的,改变行业面貌的公司。这两家公司的创始人,创业之初都才二十出头。

就业数据也凸显了年轻一代在社会中处于“二等公民”的境况。几十年来的经济发展停滞,使得各年龄阶层中零时工的数量大增。而在这其中,年轻人受到的打击最大。

去年,年龄在15-24岁的劳动力群体中,45%是零时工。而在1988年,这一比例为17.2%。这个45%的比例,是他们前辈群体中临时工比例的两倍,那些前辈们固守着各种旧的做法。今天,日本新闻媒体也充斥着大学毕业生求职时,遭遇严酷现实的报道。在2010年10月学校毕业之前,只有56.7%的毕业生找到了工作机会,而其中的全职工作很少。

“在日本,年轻一代受到的不平等待遇是世界上最严重的。”岛泽学夫说。他是秋田大学社会政治学教授。针对这一代际之间不平等的问题,他写了很多文章。“日本已经丧失了活力。因为年纪大的一辈人不肯退居二线,来让年轻人有机会面对新的挑战,并且成长。”

代际间的差异和危险

很多国家都遇到了老龄化问题,但日本的情况却是真的可怕。据预测,到2055年,日本人口中40%的年龄将达到或超过65岁。人们早就预见到,这一问题会带来的一些后果,如通缩问题。随着日本退休人口的增加,他们靠着退休金过活,消费会减少,会进一步加剧日本国内消费原本就不足的状况。而这些代与代之间的不平等,另一个结果就是预计社会产出会降低。

堀江谦一说发现,这些差异有很多种表现。有公司会雇佣很多年轻人来干那些收入低,毫无前途的工作。目的就是为了让企业里的前辈们,能继续干着他们那份轻松的工作。另外,日本一味照顾本老年人的,不合理的养老金制度面临资金短缺,也让很多年轻人拒绝承担。“银发民主”制度,让政府开支在老年人身上投入过多,远远超过对教育和儿童保育的投入。这问题和美国类似。而过时的雇佣做法,在日本催生出新的,被剥夺了公民权的“迷茫一代”。

井上渚是东京明治大学大四的学生,她正在考虑花钱再多读一年大学,而不愿意一毕业就失业。在日本死板的就业市场中,要企业找到一个高收入的职位比登天还难。因为那些日本公司,即便有稳定的固定工职位,也只青睐那些他们认为能按照日本公司文化塑造的,缺乏个性的毕业生。

具有讽刺意味的是,井上小姐说,她可不想去大公司工作。她想去参与非盈利的环保团体的工作,但也不会去做一份所谓的“固定工”的工作。

“我希望能自由选择,尝试做不同事情。”22岁的她说道。“但在日本,要做点与众不同的事,代价太大了。”

很多社会学专家认为,日本严酷的经济形势,更逼迫人们不得不遵循日本现在那些过时的,千人一面的就业制度。明治大学的学生对年龄在18到22岁的年轻人,进行了一项网络调查发现,三分之二的人感到如今的青少年不愿意冒险或者接受新挑战。相反,他们已变成“性格内向的”一代,对平庸的生活感到满意,或者屈从于这样的生活。

东京大学教育学教授本田由纪说:“这是年轻一代和旧制度间的错配。很多日本年轻人不愿意像他们父母一辈的那样,过着一切以工作为主的生活方式。但是,他们又没有选择。

面对公众的强烈不满,日本厚生省在去年底向企业建议,把毕业三年内的学生都算作新毕业生。如果企业给这些新人提供固定工的职位,厚生省将按每雇佣一名新人,最高发放180万日元,约合22,000的标准,给企业补贴。

但或许年轻人的进取心到处碰壁,这在日本社会已司空见惯。而缺乏企业家精神,这对日本经济造成了可怕的恶果。

根据总部在东京的Next公司统计,2009年日本企业IPO的数量仅仅19家,而同期美国企业IPO的数量达到66家。而厚生省的一项统计,更是说明在日本企业家里,也是老人居多:2002年,只有9.1%的日本企业家年龄在20多岁,而美国这一比例达到25%。

“日本已变成了一个零和博弈的社会。”板仓一郎说。他曾经营一家互联网企业,后来失败。他写了本书谈他的创业经历。“既得利益者们害怕年轻人的新人进入后,会窃取他们的利益。因此,他们就不和年轻人做生意。”

很多日本经济学家和制定政策者们认为,培养企业家精神是治疗日本经济病症的最佳药方。对于这一话题谈论已久。而且这一想法在日本历史上有过先例:在日本从二战的废墟上崛起的之时,年轻的日本企业家们纷纷大胆创业,彻底改变了全球整个产业的面貌。

企业家的沉浮

但很多人说,日本经济自它最辉煌的时候起,就已开始僵化了。如今,创新的企业几乎在日本几乎绝迹。要理解个中原因,很多人会提到那个在日本尽人皆知的,互联网巨头堀江贵文的兴衰。

当他在十年前第一次进入公众视线时,他几乎不像一个传统的日本商人:三十出头,像个顽童。穿件T恤去出席会议。进行一系列的恶意收购,明目张胆地藐视各种商业规则。他当时正赶上了日本经济显现活力,似乎反弹在即的好时光。五年前,因为被指控证券欺诈,他被捕了。这似乎是个典型的因果报应的例子。而新闻媒体则把他妖魔化成一个令人生厌的,随心所欲的美国式资本主义的化身。

2007年,法院裁定他伪造公司账目而有罪,他对这一裁决还在上诉。在很多媒体访谈中,日本年轻人会不断拿堀江贵文做例子,说明新老一代之间的问题。对他们来说,这件案子意义非同凡响:一位年轻的挑战者被死水一潭的社会扼杀了。他的被捕,就在警告年轻人别想着去打破现状。”

37岁的堀江贵文在邮件中写道:“这个案子向社会传递了一个信息,面对日本社会现有的保守体制,最好是逆来顺受。”

堀江贵文和法庭始终不懈地抗争,而不是像其他很多被逮捕的人那样,乖乖地接受判决。这种举动又在日本社会引起很大反响。他的的桀骜不驯受到很多民众的追捧。如今,他的微博有50万人关注。人数超过日本首相。他公开呼吁大家去挑战现有的体制。

“堀江贵文就是我们身边最鲜活的榜样。”25岁的古市典俊说。他毕业于东京大学,他写了本书,谈了日本年轻人如何在失去希望的时候,保持快乐的心态。“堀江就代表了新、老日本之间的冲突。”

古市先生和其他很多人都认为,日本年轻人面对现实的反应不是愤怒或者抗议,反而选择自责和逃避。或者轻松地辞去工作,希望在自己狭小的空间里找到满足。而比起他们父母,生活视野太狭小了。

在这种氛围下,日本年轻的政治家说,很难调动起年轻一代对政治活动的兴趣。


高桥凉平是东京都郊区,市川市的年轻市议员。他和其他青年政治家一起,提出了“青年宣言”。呼吁年轻民众一起来维护自己的利益。

2009年底,他竞选市长职位,他的施政计划是将更多的政府开支投入年轻人的家庭和教育。然而,年轻选民对投票的响应寥寥无几。最后,他不得不去迎合当地最具影响力的投票群体:退休人员和当地的企业,如建筑公司,掌控那些公司的人都已是五六十岁了。

“老龄化进一步充实了老一辈的实力。”33岁的他说,“他们在选举中,轻而易举地获得完胜。”

他落选了,这给了他一个痛苦的教训,日本正变成一个“银发民主”的社会。政府大部分的预算和开支都大幅度向老年一代倾斜。

专家指出,削减财政赤字,就意味着年轻一代将来再也无法享受到现在退休人员的福利待遇了。计算显示,如今出生的孩子,终其一生能享受到的退休金,卫生保健和其他政府投入的开支总额,比目前的退休人员得到的各种福利,要减少120万美元。仅仅就国民退休金一块而言,差距就在几十万美元。

放弃现有的体制

结果,让很多日本年轻人放弃了这个养老体制:年龄在35岁以下的劳动者中,有一半人拒绝支付养老保险金。意味着这些年轻人将来需要面对根本没有退休金可领取的局面。“在法国,年轻人就上街抗议了。”高桥说。“在日本,人们只会选择拒付。”

年轻人或者选择退出,就像日本“迷茫的一代”十年前干的事一样。

杏子就是其中的一员。她不愿让我们写出她的姓名,怕给将来找工作添更多麻烦。大约十年前,当她还在早稻田大学读大三时,她就期望走一条二战以后无数人走过的道路,进入顶级公司工作,然后取得成功。她说一开始状态很不错,在面试时表现得很热情,不会很固执己见。这些都符合想找到勤奋员工的日本雇主的要求。

但在参加了10家公司的面试后,她有些崩溃了,再也不去了。她明白,她并不想和她爸爸一样,为公司加班加点地工作。

毕业前,她也没有找到自己想要的工作。她不得不加入了“飞特族”(freeters)的队伍:一群生活在社会下层的年轻人,干着收入很低的零时性工作。自2004年毕业以来,她已先后干过六份工作。但没有一份工作,她是缴纳了失业保险金,养老金的。也没有一份工作的月收入超过15万日元的,或者说1,800美元。

“我明白自己也不想这样。”29岁杏子回忆道,“但为什么按自己要求生活,就要付出这么大的代价?”

2
2011-02-05 22:12 编辑:kuaileyingyu
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