Does this look like the face of a criminal? A thief, pickpocket or embezzler? Well according to latest reports, crime is on the increase among the elderly in Japan. Since 2002, the crime rate among Japanese people over the age of 65 has doubled. While the crimes being committed are generally not too serious, it is a surprising and alarming finding. About one fifth of the Japanese population are aged over 65 and with the baby boomer generation entering this group within the next five years, a further rise in crime is expected.
Why are these usually harmless folk turning to crime more regularly? Probably the most obvious answer is the economic downturn. The Japanese government has been cutting back significantly on welfare payments in the last few years and so their elderly cannot even afford daily necessities. Their pensions and welfare payments are simply not enough to survive on.
However, there is also a social issue here. Traditionally in Japan, the children take on the responsibility of caring for their parents. This social norm has slowly been disappearing and so the elderly are forced to look after themselves and survive on government payments. Society is not setup to deal with this problem. Aged care facilities are inadequate and the government seems incapable of finding a solution.
Of course, such problems lead to a feeling of isolation and helplessness. One homeless 79 year old woman slashed two people in the hope she would be arrested and that the police would take care of her. Other men who lose their wives and are incapable of looking after themselves turn to crime so that they may be fed three times a day.
As the population in Japan grows older and the birth rate declines there will be less people contributing taxes and more turning to the government for help. This is a very serious problem and the Japanese government needs to do something drastic if they are going to fix it. Perhaps even Japanese society will need to take a good hard look at themselves. Maybe the tradition of caring for parents needs to be revived and god forbid we even suggest increasing immigration to bring in younger, skilled workers. Pride can be a wonderful thing but sometimes we need to put aside our pride and be willing to change to help those in our communities who need help.