Japan's Uncertain Future: Key Trends and Scenarios

By Staley, David J. | The Futurist, March-April 2002 | Go to article overview

Japan's Uncertain Future: Key Trends and Scenarios


Staley, David J., The Futurist


Japan has plummeted from economic powerhouse to faltering giant in less than a generation. What kind of future will be shaped by the forces that are driving Japanese society?

Japan is crossing a threshold from one historic period into another but is uncertain which potential new era will emerge. The outcome will affect everyone in an increasingly globalized future.

After rising from the rubble of World War II, Japan prospered from 1960 to the late 1990s. Now that period of prosperity appears to have come to an end. Those three decades were characterized by Japan's economic resurgence, high growth rates, a dedicated and group-oriented workforce, economic nationalism, relative cultural homogeneity, and a social structure that retained many of its premodern features, especially with regard to gender roles and family structure.

The task of this article is to imagine the other side of this threshold, to inquire as to what the "next period" in Japanese social history may look like.

Three Forces Create the Future

The convergence of three large-scale driving forces will determine the resulting shape of Japanese society in this next period. These driving forces are the restructuring of the Japanese economy, the long-term effects of demographic change, and the coming of age of the generation known as the "new breed."

* Restructuring of the Japanese economy. The economic downturn of the 1990s seems to be having more profound effects than simply a downturn in the value of the yen or of the real estate market. The systems of lifetime employment, of devoted "salarymen" who over-worked themselves for the good of corporation and country, and of capitalism dominated by corporate bureaucrats and government ministers have been seriously undermined. Japan is losing its hold as a leading economy and is instead chasing the rest of the industrialized world.

* The long-term effects of demographic change. By the first quarter of the twenty-first century, a significant portion of Japan's population will be over 65 years old and the birthrate will hover very close to 0%. These demographic trends will influence both the economy and the social, cultural, and familial institutions of Japan. Older Japanese will need to be cared for; no system of social security of the American or European variety now exists. The burden may well fall to families, specifically to women. The slower birthrates and grayer population will put pressure on labor markets, as companies scramble to find enough skilled and unskilled workers.

* The coming of age of the generation the Japanese refer to as the "new breed." These are the children of the postwar generation that rebuilt Japan with their hard work and self-sacrifice. This younger generation has not known poverty, or even deep economic recession. Critics complain that they are not as devoted and driven as their parents, and are content to enjoy the benefits of materialism and consumerism. They appear more individualistic than earlier generations, less willing to sacrifice for the group. Older Japanese find them rude and without values.

At the same time, the new breed appear more cosmopolitan, more accepting of outsiders, and less bound by traditional gender assumptions. This generation may well hold the key to the shape of the next period in Japanese history. As they mature and assume positions of responsibility, the new breed may govern Japan in a radically different fashion than previous generations. On the other hand, like American baby boomers who were radical in their youth but who acted more like their parents as they matured, the Japanese new breed could begin to think and act as their parents and grandparents did, making the next period in Japanese history far from a radical break.

The effects of these three driving forces--economic restructuring, aging population, and "new breed" generation--will not be felt in isolation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Japan's Uncertain Future: Key Trends and Scenarios
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.