Crime In Japan Series - Executive Summary

A tsunami of stats pointing to seismic shifts in society


The state of crime in Japan – a summary

When I first stumbled over the crime data by chance I never envisaged I would have over 120 charts and 100 pages to write about. There is so much for one to take in that I’ve decided to break it up into a series looking at the saddening trends the country now faces. It is a wild ride and will undo a lot of perceptions. This piece is the executive summary and in coming days we’ll investigate elderly crime and the breakdown in the traditional nuclear family and touch on the yakuza, police budgets, Olympic security, financial fraud and murder. Brace yourselves.

Prison Populations in Japan

The Japan National Police Agency (JNPA) and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) databanks are a treasure trove. Alarmingly is the trend in the activities of those above 60 years old. Over one-third of all arrests for shop-lifting involve this retiree demographic, up from 20% (2001). Since 2001, their representative percentage of the prison population has doubled and given the lenient sentences generally given in Japan (even drug offences mostly carry jail terms inside 2 years) 40% of repeat offenders among the elderly have committed crimes six times or more in order to return as a guest of His Excellency.

Such has been the overpopulation in prisons, the government has had to increase capacity by 50% over the last decade and boost the incidence of early release and parole to create space which one wonders is a way of making state sponsored retirement villages. Female prisons are already full (4,500 inmates) but the MoJ wants to increase the number of female prison guards to prepare for the anticipated increase in elderly crime.

Suicides among pensioners is now 40% of the total up from 27% in 1983.

There are now 3.9mn single mother and 664,000 single father households in Japan which combined now contribute almost a quarter of all households with children up from 15% in 1990. 25% of couples now marry because of unplanned pregnancy. The traditional ‘nuclear’ family is no more. Child abuse cases are up 22x over the last 20 years to 90,000.

Domestic violence (DV) is seeing a very sharp upturn in Japan. Between 2010 and 2014, victims of DV have soared 60.6% against women and 650.1% against men. Economic conditions for some families has become so tight that divorced couples are living under the same roof and DV in this category (recently created by the police), scored over 6,000 cases alone in 2014. Police cite economic issues as the largest factor.

Pressure to prevent losing one’s job seems to be a factor in the steady increase in labour disputes. In the period 2002 to 2013, labour disputes almost trebled. Bullying/harassment (which are obviously less palatable for companies to have in the public domain) as a percent of total disputes has ballooned from 5.8% to almost 20%.

What is inescapable is that Japan’s crime is unlikely to peak anytime soon. The trends show that Japan is no different to Greece. When economic conditions reach certain limits, people do what they must do to survive. That the elderly are considering ways to break into prison to seek a better life tells us all we need to know. How bad does a society have to get in order for this to be a viable choice? Mr & Mrs Watanabe are sending a very important warning. Government and investors should take heed.

We run the mathematics on what drives a pensioner to want to be a jail bird and show the government is literally burning up ¥30bn per annum on unnecessary costs which could be solved by sensible public-private initiatives (PPI) that are already used in day-care centres. The formation of state run dormitories would save ¥17bn in prison guard costs alone and reduce costs to the state of the 5.9mn citizens that fall under income support. We will delve into the details in Crime in Japan – Part 1 on Monday Feb 22nd. Stay tuned.

The full summary is available here.

Log in to comment