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All work and no play for Japanese youngsters

Encouraging them to explore their own interests can help reduce alienation, disconnect with society, and even suicide

All work and no play for Japanese youngsters

A Japanese youth delivers newspapers in Tokyo on Nov. 17, 2020. A majority of the nation's youth feel work is for the sake of living and did not associate it with fun, according to latest survey findings. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 27, 2023 04:27 AM GMT

Updated: June 27, 2023 06:07 AM GMT

A survey conducted by the National Agency for Youth Education Promotion reveals that a significantly higher percentage of high school students in Japan associate work with the concept of "for the sake of living" compared to their counterparts in the United States, China, and South Korea.

Also, the percentage of students associating work with "fun" was the lowest among the Japanese, says the survey of approximately 1,800 to 4,800 individuals in each of the four countries carried out from September 2022 to February 2023.

This survey, unlike many other seemingly futile surveys, should undoubtedly provoke a strong wave of criticism within the ruling class.

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When asked whether work was considered "for the sake of living," only 16.3 percent in the US, 17.7 percent in China, and 32.4 percent in South Korea agreed.

Japan stood out with 68.6 percent agreeing that work indeed was for the sake of living.

In response to the question of whether work was considered "fun," the percentages were 34.5 in the US, 29 percent in South Korea, 26 percent in China, and only 18.8 percent in Japan.

"A lack of purpose can have a detrimental effect, leading to feelings of emptiness, dissatisfaction and even depression"

Life is a precious gift, and it is essential to make the most of every opportunity that comes our way. However, in today's fast-paced and demanding world, the pursuit of a career for mere career's sake often overshadows the importance of finding joy and happiness in our daily lives.

One of the notions among the Japanese, especially in the average family cultural environment, is having a sense of purpose in life. It is crucial for one’s overall well-being and mental health.

When individuals have a clear sense of purpose, they feel a deeper connection to their actions, experiences and the world around them. It provides them with a sense of direction, meaning and motivation, allowing them to navigate challenges and setbacks with resilience.

Conversely, a lack of purpose can have a detrimental effect, leading to feelings of emptiness, dissatisfaction and even depression.

In the context of Japan, where suicide rates have been a longstanding concern, the issue of purpose becomes particularly significant.

The Japanese face societal pressures and rigid cultural norms since their youth days like no other nations in the world, and this can contribute to a lack of purpose or a sense of feeling “trapped.”

Factors such as intense academic competition, demanding work environments and societal-family expectations can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed, disconnected and devoid of meaning in their lives.

The consequences of this lack of purpose are evident.

"It is essential to emphasize that purpose does not necessarily have to be tied solely to career aspirations"

Tragically, many individuals, particularly young people, resort to taking their own lives as a result of feeling hopeless and being unable to envision a brighter future.

The pressures to conform excel academically or professionally, and meet societal expectations can create immense psychological strain and a sense of being stuck in a never-ending cycle.

To address this issue, it is crucial to prioritize mental health support, destigmatize seeking help which is branded as an indelible disgrace in Japan, and create an environment that encourages individuals to explore their passions, interests and personal values.

Providing opportunities for self-discovery, promoting a more balanced approach to education and work and fostering a culture that values individual self-fulfillment, can help combat the prevailing sense of purposelessness.

Moreover, it is essential to emphasize that purpose does not necessarily have to be tied solely to career aspirations. It can encompass various aspects of life, including personal relationships, hobbies, community engagement and contribution to a greater cause, which could be regularly engaging in volunteer work.

During my own encounters with young individuals who actively participated in aiding the survivors of the devastating 2011 tsunami or during the recurring typhoon seasons, it became evident that these individuals possessed a remarkable ability to embrace life with a profound sense of lightness and appreciation.

Encouraging individuals to explore their own interests and not those pushed onto them by their peers or families, can help develop a strong sense of self, and can be instrumental in promoting a sense of purpose. It can reduce the risk of alienation, disconnect with immediate friends and family members, and ultimately even suicide.

While we understand that work may not always be enjoyable or pleasant, it is vital to offer young individuals abundant opportunities for practical engagement in a variety of fields.

By doing so, they can gain valuable insights and experiences that enable them to navigate their own calling towards a future aligned with their personal preferences, not someone else’s. This approach will eventually empower them to gain motivation and, ultimately, fulfillment in their chosen path.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.


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