To fight the ageing population in Japan, a professor at Yale University proposes mass suicide !

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A professor at Yale University in the United States, Yusuke NARITA, suggested the collective suicide of seniors as a remedy to cope with Japan’s rapidly ageing population. Comments that naturally aroused outrage.

This economics professor at Yale University in America was featured in the US daily “The New York Times”. The newspaper, in a report, reports the professor’s thesis on how to deal with the ageing of Japanese society. According to him, the treatment of ageing in Japan entails high social security and health costs. In addition, labour market renewal is hampered.

“The only solution” to combat Japan’s ageing population

According to the NY Post, Japanese-born professor Yusuke NARITA said in 2021 : “I feel that the only solution is pretty clear.  In the end, isn’t it a mass suicide and a mass ‘seppuku’ of the elderly ?”. Seppuku is the act of committing suicide by sticking a knife or a sword in the belly, as the dishonored samurai did. 

The newspaper “New York Times” has been severely criticized for relaying the ideas of the professor who is a figure on social networks. His audience follows him for all his theories.

Words out of context according to Narita

According to Yusuke NARITA, his statements were taken out of context, claiming that he was referring to “removing” older people from positions of responsibility in economic and political professions. He said that his remarks in 2021 were not appropriate to explain this theory. He remains, however, on his initial idea, considering that this is the “only option”.

I should have been more careful about any negative connotations. My statements about mass suicide and seppuku were metaphors. After reflection, I stopped using those terms last year.

Yusuke NARITA, professor at Yale University in the United States

Other possible solutions

In Japan, many people were outraged by the professor’s remarks. Alexis DUDDEN, a historian at the University of Connecticut studying modern Japan, told the Times that there are other solutions :

Professor Narita does not focus on useful strategies such as better access to childcare or broader inclusion of women in the labour force or broader inclusion of immigrants. These things could actually set up Japanese society.

Alexis DUDDEN, historian at the University of Connecticut in the United States

World’s oldest population urged to hurry to die

Age pyramid in Japan from 1950 to 2055

Professor Narita’s remarks respond to the words of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio KISHIDA, who publicly admitted that the birth rate was low compared to the ageing population. The functioning of Japanese society is therefore threatened by this high rate of ageing. Fumio KISHIDA is not the only one to say this since in 2013, Finance Minister Taro ASO said that seniors should “hurry to die” to save the country the cost of medical care.

Indeed, Japan faces a very low birth rate accompanied by the highest public debt in the world. According to the World Bank, the country has 1.3 births per woman, which is much lower than the global average birth rate of 2.3 births per woman.

Since the 1950s, the percentage of the population over the age of 65 has steadily increased, making Japan the top country with the oldest population in the world.

The words of Yusuke NARITA have appealed to some young Japanese who believe that the country’s economic progress is being hampered by the ageing of power. However, not everyone agrees with this vision of society. Also, many wonder what the consequences might be on relationships with seniors that are traditionally supported and respected. They fear that this vision of mass suicide will be popularized and run counter to the traditional respect of older generations. In short, an extreme Japanese #OKboomer…

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