Back in 2010, I was interviewed about my previous research on hikikomori. The reporter and I sat for about an hour in the Shibuya Starbucks chatting about shut-ins in Japan. I tried to give him a broad picture of the issue and how it was portrayed in the media. I even said several times what I was stating was not my opinion but what others had said or how it was generally perceived. What he finally put to print is somewhat out of context and not the gist of what I was trying to tell him, but what's in print is done.
Hanging out with Japan's 'lost generation' - CBC NEWS
Its a good article and appears to be well researched. It was my understanding at the time of the interview that the piece was to be longer and in the main publication. Its a shame he had to shorten the length, but I think he did the best he could with the space he was given.
Personally, I dislike the usage of "pressure cooker" applied to the Japanese school system. I was telling the reporter this is how other people portray Japanese education, its not my viewpoint.
If forced to use sound bite imagery, I would prefer to think of the educational track in a Japan as a highway with too few off-ramps into adult life. Once you take an exit from the college track, there is no way to get back on the road. With globalization, options for adult re-education and re-skilling has become a common strategy in other nations in the labor market. The ability to go back to school and get a college degree/re-skill as an adult and be accepted into the labor force within a new career is a viable option in many globalized labor markets. Some stigma may still hold for those trying for employment in the most elite of corporations, however.
In Japan, globalization has caused many companies to downsize and resort to a contract-for-hire work force they can jettison at any time to stay profitable. However, unlike globalized corporations in other countries, many big Japanese companies still prefer to hire fresh 20-something college graduates as their regular employees with full benefits. The remainder of their work force are 'outside hires', contract workers: freeters.
Contract workers may have gone back to school as an adult or have worked for several years learning the same skills in the industry as regular hires. However, that on-the-job work-experience by contract hires is not considered valid on a job application by Japanese corporations. So re-skilling and adult education in Japan means, even if you can get hired into a middle class labor position, most likely you will be a contract worker with no real chance to become a full time employee at the "big" corporations the rest of your working life. You are relegated to a precarious working class existence in society with little job stability.
This is why there is a growing population of aged 30+ freeters (contract workers) in the Japanese work force. Freeters and NEET are basically the same group of Japanese workers either in contract employment (and show up in data as freeter) or unemployed after a stint working (and are classified in labor data as NEET) . Collectively, this marginalized population of Freeters and NEET are rapidly becoming Japan's new working class with no viable path to a mainstream middle class career. Many of these 30-something freeters want to start families or be bread-winners, but lack the job stability to settle down into family roles with any confidence.