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Japanese and Canadians of a certain age have more in common than they might think.  The current generation of 30-40 somethings in both countries have been disinherited of just about every that matters.  Bereft of political and economic power, the Generation Ys lament in increasing numbers.

In Japan:  a system of eternal employment for everyone has been replaced by downsizings, contract employment, an increase in sales tax, and many refusing to pay for the national pension plan in the face of the increasingly obvious fact that those working today will never benefit from it.  The preceding generation has pensions, fat savings accounts, owns property, and is occupying any job of worth well into their 70s if not 80s.  The younger generation almost finds it a requirement to continue to rely on their politically and financially more powerful parents, who also control the political system by their numbers.  The older generation, perhaps most ironically, has no intention of relinquishing power, branding the younger generation as selfish and individualistic.  They are completely unable to see the connection between their gerontocratic ways and the younger generations increasing number of shut-ins and refusal to participate in the system currently in place.  Japan has become increasingly uncompetitive due to the high yen which stubbornly remains in place, damning an economy based on exporting to cool down.  Any proposals to weaken the yen remain doomed to failure, the oyaji having a gimlet eye fixed on their swollen savings accounts and forcing the government to pour ever-increasing amounts of money into health services as their fear of death approaches.  True horror is realized when the oyajis place a higher premium on rebuilding their prior households after the nuclear disaster in Fukuyama than adapting their lifestyles for the next generation. (http://www.economist.com/node/21559932)  True irony is realized when an elder generation which continually berates the younger for individualistic and selfish behaviour does exactly the same for itself.

In Canada:  Canada’s baby boomer generation is in rude health.  Many are retired, with exceptional pension plans guaranteeing that they retire in style.  The norm is having a second home in the country, a large RV to tour North America, or perhaps a vacation property somewhere in Latin America or Florida.  These things, their successor generation will never have.  The pension plans which provide them with a comfortable lifestyle are not available to the currently employed.  Benefits are being chipped away in the increasing realization that in a plan which relied on 7-10 working people for every 1 retired would not feasible.  The more realistic ratio of 3:1 or even 2:1 will not be providing the same benefits.  The boomers have the same death grip on their pensions as the elder Japanese do on their savings.  There is no talk in the boomer dominated government of cutting current pensions, it is conspicuous by its total absence.  And much as in Japan, the boomers dominate by both numbers and money.  Political suicide is the only option for any politician bold enough to propose that perhaps some of the more well off boomers might consider reducing their pensions.  And we are left with the same sad story, the current elder generation only being too willing to prostitute the country’s future for their current benefit.  A boomer could buy a house for less than double their annual salary.  Today’s generation faces prices of quadruple or quintuple.  Their grip on government demands increasing billions of dollars poured into Canada’s overtaxed health system in the hope that their golden years might be extended.  Most insultingly, the retirement age (not affecting the boomers, naturally) has been extended to 67, even with the implicit understanding that the results will not be nearly the same.  Canadians can only look forward to decreasing retirement benefits while looking on in envy at the previous generation as the boomers live a wealthy gadabout lifestyle completely unavailable to the average worker.  And perhaps worst of all, a generation that had everything served to them on a plate looks down on the next one, sermonizing that if only the younger ones would work harder they could have the same benefits.  Elder Canadians count their “wise RRSP investments” and “hard work” and berate the next generation for their student loans and lack of investing acumen.

We have more in common than we think, Canadians and Japanese of a certain age.  Although the difficulties vary in their precise nature, in broad strokes we suffer the same agony; an elder generation that could not give a damn about the next.

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