June 8, 2010

"The Japanese have their own eldercare crisis because of the size of their WWII widow population."

"Due to their understanding of the high costs of sufficient and appropriate eldercare, the Japanese government has spent one hundred million dollars ($100,000,000) in grants (to Sanyo, Toshiba, Hitachi, Fujitsu, NEC, etc.) over the last eight to ten years to develop personal robots for their own eldercare crisis, yet no viable solutions have been developed by them to date."

"Viable" is a poignant word to use.
viable

1828, from Fr. viable "capable of life" (1539), from vie "life" (from L. vita "life;" see vital) + -able. Originally of newborn infants; generalized sense is first recorded 1848.
It's a familiar word in the American law relating to abortion.

Is the eldercare problem in Japan really about all the men who died in WWII, or is more about the failure to produce new human beings who might take care of the old?

56 comments:

Scott M said...

Both.

Steven Givler said...

You're absolutely right. That last sentence places the blame exactly where it belongs. You have to wonder about cultures (I live in Portugal at the moment, and it's the same here.) whose members have lost interest in reproducing. Maybe I'm just a throwback, but any advances I've made as a man came as a result of having become a father. Any maturity, any work ethic, any ability to save or exhibit self discipline - any small virtues to which I may lay claim - are the result of needing to provide for, and set a good example for my kids.

What growth is forfeited by cultures that have decided to pursue pleasure instead of having kids?

rhhardin said...

The robot temperature-taker was a hoot.

I think the current solution is Filipino caregivers, who can get a license to stay if they learn Japanese within three years. They're thinking of extending the time limit now.

Scott M said...

Those people that I've known in my lifetime that have never had kids have been some of the most selfish. Raising a child is nothing if not sacrifice of one's self on a daily (hourly?) basis.

rhhardin said...

Viable is unremarkable; "viable solution" is a cliche.

Probably it leans on L via, road, more than Fr. vie.

Ann Althouse said...

"Viable is unremarkable..."

I'm not suggesting the word is misused, only that it is poignant to have the word with the root "life" when you are resorting to devising robots to help the old who have no human beings around them.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I'm curious, China lost significantly more people during WW2 under Japanese occupation and a few ten millions more withduring the Great Leap forward instituted by that great Chinese philosopher Mao yet their fecundity is such the government had to institute a one kid per family law.

I think I have to go with lack of will to reproduce. Seems to be affecting Europe as well.

Richard Dolan said...

This is an interesting contrast to the post about liberals not understanding classical economics. Having a low birth rate states a fact about Japanese demographics. It is not particularly relevant to the Japanese eldercare problem or its solution, which is about allocating resources to provide services to a segment of the population. Having a larger population of young Japanese would spread the cost (both financial and labor) among more people, but wouldn't lower the costs or change the problem.

paul a'barge said...

The Japanese should ask Barack Hussein Obama. President Obama's solution is the implementation of death panels that will ration care.

In other words, let 'em die. Then you don't have to take care of them.

rcocean said...

The elder care "crisis" in Japan is a temporary phenomenon which will end when the baby boomers start dying off. Japan has 127 million in a country the size of California. Life will be better when that decreases instead of increases.

Also, the idea that a small country with 127 million needs immigration is well, crazy.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Also, the idea that a small country with 127 million needs immigration is well, crazy.

Well based upon Japan having probably the strictest immigration laws out there I'd say they agree.

Ironclad said...

Having lived in Japan twice, I will just say that having children there would be a enormous challenge financially for a family as well as a asymmetrically large burden on the wife (since the husband has to work 12-14 hours a day). Life for the kids there is very regimented - school in the morning, cram school in the evenings plus other activities. It was normal to see kids on the trains coming home as late as 9 PM on trips from Tokyo back to Yokohama.

My secretary there told me point blank that she never wanted to have kids because of the hell she went through when young (pressure - lack of attention by parents). That said, I did see a real upswing in the birth rate measured by families with kids between 2000 and 2005. The 2nd stay had notably more kids visible in the shopping areas and malls than the first one.

Personally, Japan could stand to lose around 15-20% of its population just to get the crowding down in the big cities. There were debates about what to do about areas that were becoming "depopulated" in some cities - and much of the discussion was just increasing the size of apartments by combining them to attract more people back (and provide kid space).

But the most cutting remark that I heard (a lot) by the women was that half the men must be gay, because they were not courting the ladies. The other side of that coin from the guys was that they did not need any MORE pressure in their lives (the jobs were killing them).

Hoosier Daddy said...

Personally, Japan could stand to lose around 15-20% of its population just to get the crowding down in the big cities.

That's all fine and good but what 15-20%? The elderly who are essentially a financial liability of the state or the yout who is providing the financial werewithall for the state? The problem with the progressive welfare state is that you need a steady supply of bodies to keep the system functioning and solvent.

Hey, maybe we can dovetail this with the Soylent Green thread.

edutcher said...

The comments about failure to reproduce are clearly where the issue lies. As Hoosier notes, "China lost significantly more people during WW2 under Japanese occupation and a few ten millions more during the Great Leap Forward".

The same, more importantly, is true of Germany and Russia. Both countries have blamed their demographic problems on lack of reproduction, also.

HDHouse said...

Could it also be that women outlife men in Japan by 7 years (expectency)? and post WWII Japan would place "widows" right near the 84+ "married then widowed" line...and that the birth rate is very low, even for Asia and has been for 30 years.

It is a lot of things but "eldercare crisis" is found in by my last count 18 different cites on a search and all stem from this one quasi-press release so I'd beware of drawing many if any conclusions or asking for them.

traditionalguy said...

The arrogance of the big city malthusian "scientists" among us continues as if they have made a great discovery. It is nonsense. if you will drive around outside the city you will find that there is an empty country side as far as the eye can see. We don't lack spaces or resources. We are proudly surrendering to a competitive culture of death and its propaganda apparatus that confidently tells us there will be more for us when we kill off the competing people and enslave a few useful ones as our body servants. But meanwhile the followers of the Islam religion who are breeding twice as fast as the rest of the world cultures and expect to be given rule of the world in a few decades by the small and weak followers of the Malthusian Science.

Eugene said...

In Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society, the computer running the Medicare system comes up with a perfectly rational solution to the problem (it's not what you think), and then goes all HAL 9000 on anybody who gets in the way.

Though the "Elder Care Robot" proposed here sounds eerily like the one satirized in Roujin Z (which was released in 1991, making it all the more prescient).

bagoh20 said...

"Those people that I've known in my lifetime that have never had kids have been some of the most selfish. Raising a child is nothing if not sacrifice of one's self on a daily (hourly?) basis."

Only if you consider supporting your own family as giving to others.

Is it altruistic to work hard to buy your family a nice house or is it selfish? I mean if you worked hard to buy someone else's house that would be different.

When you support your own family you have decided not to give that effort to someone outside your family. You are simply taking responsibility for needs that you created. I don't see it as altruistic anymore than cutting your own grass after you plant it.

Big Mike said...

Is the eldercare problem in Japan really about all the men who died in WWII, or is more about the failure to produce new human beings who might take care of the old?

Clearly, both. When your military doctrine calls for massed suicide charges you will create a lot of widows, and women of childbearing age who have no husband are unlikely to have many children. (Or that used to be the case.)

I'm not suggesting the word is misused, only that it is poignant to have the word with the root "life" when you are resorting to devising robots to help the old who have no human beings around them.

Some day we will figure it out, but right now the ability of a robot to read body language and to understand tone is so close to negligible that it makes no difference. But without these capabilities, it's not easy for a robot even to understand when their patient is undergoing stress.

Scott M said...

When you support your own family you have decided not to give that effort to someone outside your family. You are simply taking responsibility for needs that you created. I don't see it as altruistic anymore than cutting your own grass after you plant it.

Only if you assume that you're doing the bare minimum of sheltering and feeding your children. Raising them to be good people requires a lot more effort. Giving of yourself isn't a zero-sum game. You're statement seems to assume that people that don't have kids automatically give effort to others that aren't their non-existent children. This isn't true at all and goes to the heart of what I was saying. Sure, someone can be childless and work tireless for others. Or, like most of the people I cited, they can remain childless by choice because they don't want their own time/resources garnished by others.

Again, you can provide the legal minimum to your kids, or you can work hard to get that nice house so your children benefit from growing up in a better than minimum environment. Better houses generally mean better schools and neighborhoods, after all. To label such a drive as selfish seems to be the crux of the overall argument. Individual wants/needs versus collective. I submit that wanting a better house for my family can only be perceived as selfish from the point of view of a collectivist.

Alex said...

Soylent Green is people!

Hoosier Daddy said...

Clearly, both. When your military doctrine calls for massed suicide charges you will create a lot of widows, and women of childbearing age who have no husband are unlikely to have many children.

Well again, I bring up China as the counterexample. Maybe its a matter of percentages in terms of the number of Japanese males killed in WW2 vs Chinese durng the same time and during Mao.

Ironclad said...

2 remarks. The 15-20% that I quoted is strictly an observation about space and crowding. I realize that you need younger people to work, but you also have to have an environment that does not make people feel like caged rats too. Most of the family apartments for 4 I saw in Yokohama were barely 800 ft2.

Japanese women love their kids, but they are also realistic about the work required. Japanese schools are absolute pressure cookers compared to US ones. Hard on everyone there.

The answer actually to the elderly care problem will be Philipinos. They will, in the end, import cheap labor to work as caregivers and nurses. Happens there now for secretarial help. Maybe when North Korea folds, all that excess labor would be absorbed by Japan. And being very un-PC too, working and cleaning up after people would fit the Japanese perception of Koreans very well.

rcocean said...

Japan DIDN'T lose *all* its men during WW II. Japan lost about 2 million men, which is a lot - but Japan had 13 million men of military age. So we're talking about 15 percent or so.

Also, from 1940 to 1950 the number of Japanese males increased by 6 million (from 35 to 41 million). There are now over 60 million Japanese males.

David said...

A woman who was 20 in 1940 would now be 90. Japan was at war, with heavy casualties, from 1935 to 1945. Most of these "war widows" would be 85-95+ years. Methinks someone is making things up, not looking at the data.

roesch-voltaire said...

This comment seems over-generalized."Those people that I've known in my lifetime that have never had kids have been some of the most selfish." I know quite a few couples without children and they are all involved in their churches, or work as volunteers in community organizations--anything but selfish. As far as the topic goes, remember this is a company promoting its product and prone to exaggerate the situation. There has been a decline in birth rates, but as one demographic study, done by a UW researcher, points out, that is in part because the highly educated women in Japan are less inclined to marry as that means they must do most of the house work and well as work at the job-- in contrast to America where the men have started contributing more towards house chores resulting in more highly educated women entering marriage.

Bruce Hayden said...

For awhile there, I was buying it. It wasn't the number who died during the war, but rather, how that distorted the sex ratio. In a society where, presumably, the males took care of the women, widows would be a drain on the state financially. So, the China parallel probably wasn't persuasive, since there it is likely that the ratio of dead would be more balanced.

BUT, most of the war widows are now dead. So, if there are big imbalances in the two sexes as they head into retirement, it is more likely a result of the men living a lifestyle that is more hazardous to their health, such as working those long hours, and smoking and drinking like fiends.

But I would think that the real problem is birthrate, and that the country has been under replacement level for quite some time. This means that those who are in the work force are going to be taking care of ever increasing numbers of retirees of both sexes, and that is where all these robotics come in, as well as all those Filipinos.

bagoh20 said...

"I submit that wanting a better house for my family can only be perceived as selfish from the point of view of a collectivist."

Nobody has children for the good of others. You have children because you want the joys of that or you believe it will give your life meaning or purpose. Therefore, you do it for yourself. I certainly don't think there is anything wrong with that, but it is not altruistic or selfless.

traditionalguy said...

Bagho 20...I understand your point that raising children is a want and not a need. Getting the want means unselfishness has to happen 24/7 for 18 years as the parents are putting the childrens needs first for an 18 year marathon run. That self discipline does teach adults endurance and it also trains adults to take joy from another's happiness rather than to be envious of another's happiness.

Alex said...

tradguy;

Getting the want means unselfishness has to happen 24/7 for 18 years as the parents are putting the childrens needs first for an 18 year marathon run.

Biggest bunch of nonsense I ever heard. Very few parents literally sacrifice their entire lives for 18 years to raise the hellspawn.

traditionalguy said...

Alex...You may need to meet a better class of parents. The good ones make most of their life decisions with the children's needs figured in at the top of the priority list as best as they can, before they add their own needs and wants in down the list. Frankly, after age 38 or so a special grace/talent to do this parental marathon seems to lift, and then we don't do it as well anymore. It then becomes their turn to live that way for our prescious grandchildren.

Duscany said...

I can't speak to other countries but any nothing that the United States is short of people is absurd. Even with the cost of gas and the ever rising unemployment rate, here in Los Angeles streets and freeways are jammed, store parking lots are full. The California state government is going nuts trying to find more water for both agriculture and a relentlessly growing population. We don't have enough electricity and we're drowning in our own trash, which the city government has apparently decided to store in the city's gutters till it comes up with a better solution.

There's no money to fix our streets, let alone or repair the sidewalks. From my office window in can see people tripping over buckled sidewalks, while kids on skateboards use the tree-root-raised slabs as mini-ski ramps.

Last year the city fathers told residents to water their lawns only two days a week but then discovered that these kinds of fluctuations in water pressure were causing our ancient water pipes to burst, creating instant sinkholes in our streets.

I can't think of any problem California suffers from that isn't made worse by over-population, including rising levels of CO2, but not only don't government officials, opinion makers, policy people or the mass media don't lament the problem, when they do mention population it's only to cheer on the ever rising numbers of people, oftentimes on the grounds that more people bring greater diversity, by which they usually mean another taco truck or mini-mall Thai restaurant.

Let the population drop. Maybe that way if I live long enough I'll win a ticket the one day lottery they hold each February for the right to Climb Mt. Whitney.

dbp said...

bagoh20 said...

I don't see it as altruistic anymore than cutting your own grass after you plant it.

Sure, parents have children for their own reasons. In the process of raising them, we parents bear most of the expense and yet society as a whole benefits from the creation of productive citizens.

bagoh20 said...

Sacrifice has nothing to do with selfishness or altruism. It's what you sacrifice balanced against what you accomplish.

I can take this week's paycheck which signifies my sacrifice and use it to feed my family or yours. If I feed the children I produced, I don't find it very altruistic, since if I didn't produce said children, I could feed your family. Now that would be altruistic.

Since those of us who pay higher taxes for being single and who use less services as a single are clearly subsidizing those who have children, I would appreciate not being called selfish for it.

I know the argument goes that those children will eventually pay the taxes to support my senile ass some day, but that is not gonna happen, since there will be no money left by then and I will support myself from my own savings which I was able to accumulate because I limited my exposure to child raising. Besides won't their children's contribution be supporting their parents final years not mine anyway.

I raised another man kids through high school and then was off the hook. Those who think child raising is doing the rest of us a favor should raise orphans or adopt a single mother or dad's family. That's a net improvement.

bagoh20 said...

"Sure, parents have children for their own reasons. In the process of raising them, we parents bear most of the expense and yet society as a whole benefits from the creation of productive citizens."

Agreed. We all help raise those children and we all benefit if we do a good job of it.

I'm reacting to the often heard dismissal of the childless as selfish. Although they can be, I think most contribute significantly to the society's children and in addition often have extra time and resources to commit to help even more, and do.

traditionalguy said...

Duscany...Did you see the Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty? There is a scene where as god he tries to answer all the prayers to win the Mega Millions Lottery drawing. So they all win...but they have to split it and get $17 apiece. Maybe we need to open up some federal land out there. I remember being surprised how empty Northern California was from Sonoma Valley north to Oregon.

Eric said...

The elder care "crisis" in Japan is a temporary phenomenon which will end when the baby boomers start dying off. Japan has 127 million in a country the size of California. Life will be better when that decreases instead of increases.

No, this is a much bigger problem than baby boomers. Japanese fertility is around 1.2 children per woman. They're on a slide to cultural oblivion at this rate.

Eric said...

It's 2010 - people who were 17 in 1945 reaching their life expectancy this year. This has nothing at all to do with WW II widows, who have (from a demographic standpoint) already passed on.

It's a lack of babies, pure and simple. The way social programs are structured in first world countries you can't go from 125 million people to 95 million in thirty years and not have wrenching problems.

Eric said...

But the most cutting remark that I heard (a lot) by the women was that half the men must be gay, because they were not courting the ladies.

If the men are really working 12-14 hours a day that's not surprising in the least, gay or not.

Big Mike said...

@Eric, David, and Bruce, the WWII widows and never marrieds might be reaching their life expectancy here in 2010, but I also imagine that there are a lot of them.

Eric said...

Since I've already stomped all over this thread (this is one of my favorite subjects), let me include this little bit from spikedjapan on the minister with the "low birthrate countermeasures" portfolio:

The current incumbent, Mizuho Fukushima, whose 1992 authorship of a book titled “Choosing not to give birth: The joy of not having children” (産まない選択 子供を持たない楽しさ) suggests she might not quite be the right person for the task at hand (could you make this stuff up?),

Eric said...

@Eric, David, and Bruce, the WWII widows and never marrieds might be reaching their life expectancy here in 2010, but I also imagine that there are a lot of them.

Maybe in absolute numbers, but only seven percent of Japan's population is over 80, and the youngest people in that cohort were only fifteen years old when the war ended.

Methadras said...

No, the Japanese have a corporate state welfare problem.

Methadras said...

Also, they have a large male population that primarily consists of man-babies and Japanese women are avoiding them like the plague.

Christy said...

So my question is this: did the fear of having deformed babies after the A-bombs have any impact on the birth rate? Fear of radiation fallout from the mushroom clouds blowing around over the entire country and even the remote and rumored possibility of deformity may have created a reluctance to have babies that has subtly influenced the next generations until it became a cultural norm.

In any case, the women who were young in '45 would have probably had fewer children even if they were not widowed, don't you think?

Rialby said...

Steyn is my go-to expert in this field. He's written a great deal on the topic and has pointed to many interesting things we will see in the future, completely predictable because we already know the demographic future of those places that chose to stop reproducing.

By the way, I've done some amateur geneaology myself. It's amazing how quickly a family line can die out if they do not produce enough children. Complete lines gone, never to be seen again.

Pogo said...

Incentives matter.

In the West, the incentives align with childlessness.


Dobbs: Look Yossarian, suppose, I mean just suppose everyone thought the same way you do.
Yossarian: Then I'd be a damn fool to think any different.

Eric said...

In any case, the women who were young in '45 would have probably had fewer children even if they were not widowed, don't you think?

Based on the fertility chart, it looks like the terminal decline didn't really start until the early 1970s, so it's really the Japanese baby-boomer generation that decided children were superfluous.

Revenant said...

Those people that I've known in my lifetime that have never had kids have been some of the most selfish. Raising a child is nothing if not sacrifice of one's self on a daily (hourly?) basis.

The whole "people who don't have kids are selfish" meme is particularly asinine. I'm unmarried and childless. I pay a hell of a lot more in taxes than I receive in benefits, and a large percentage of that money goes to support other people's children.

If you want to call me selfish, have the basic decency to get your fuckin' hand out of my pocket first.

Christy said...

Eric, I'm not convinced it's unrelated. From your chart I see a 10% decline in the decade after WWII, then 20 years later those post war kids, whose parents would have been most concerned about deformity, are having 10% fewer kids. Japan didn't have a baby boom, so aside even from the cultural differences, it's hard for me to truly understand the generation of Japanese who went into, as you say, terminal decline. Different cultural forces.

c3 said...

Japan will be the first casualty of the age wave (large population of elderly under-supported by a dwindling workforce in spite of high cost obligations) And as mentioned above Japan is presently below replacement rate so it doesn't get better as the Boomers die.

The next biggest concern (because of how much it drives the world's economy) is China. "One child" has left few children to care for their elders (the traditional Chinese method of Social Security) And it certainly doesn't help that the younger generations have migrated to the cities, leaving behind many of the elderly in the rural villages.

Europe will be next.

However, the US will do better due to its higher fertility rate. And for that we have to thank, to a large extent, our Hispanic population

Kev said...

The whole "people who don't have kids are selfish" meme is particularly asinine. I'm unmarried and childless. I pay a hell of a lot more in taxes than I receive in benefits, and a large percentage of that money goes to support other people's children.

Agreed. I'm in the same situation at the moment, and I'd hardly consider myself to be selfish. If anything, the lack of family obligations means that I've had more time to put into my teaching--extra rehearsals, mentoring, etc.

Ragging on the unmarried and childless for being that way is pointless, because people are in that situation for one of two reasons--either by choice (and choice is supposed to be respected, right?), or because of bad fortune (or possibly just a matter of Not Quite Being There Yet).

Methadras said...

Revenant said...

The whole "people who don't have kids are selfish" meme is particularly asinine. I'm unmarried and childless. I pay a hell of a lot more in taxes than I receive in benefits, and a large percentage of that money goes to support other people's children.

If you want to call me selfish, have the basic decency to get your fuckin' hand out of my pocket first.


So then, if you got married and had children then this wouldn't be an issue?

Methadras said...

c3 said...

However, the US will do better due to its higher fertility rate. And for that we have to thank, to a large extent, our Hispanic population


Uh, Hispania doesn't exist anymore. Therefore they are not hispanic.

c3 said...

Uh, Hispania doesn't exist anymore. Therefore they are not hispanic.

And Caucasians aren't from the Caucuses, either. And your point?

Duscany said...

traditionalguy: "Maybe we need to open up some federal land out there. I remember being surprised how empty Northern California was from Sonoma Valley north to Oregon."

This is true. Between the sand states and the mosquito states there's a lot of open space out there. But there also is no shortage of people. A lot of people in Los Angeles lament the disappearance of the "red cars" (the big fast interurban streetcars that used to hit 65 mph between downtown LA and the beach). The reason they could go that fast was that the tracks ran through deserted bean fields. Now it's an endless grid of buildings. I drove across LA this morning at 7 am. It was 38 mph bumper to bumper on a 12 lane freeway. At times like this I can't think of a single reason for adding more people.