Photo/IllutrationSecond-generation baby boomers line up at a junior high school in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward in 1988. The first-year students are the group seen at left, with second-year students in the center and third-year students on the right. Those baby boomers were said to be independent minded and determined to carve out their own futures. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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Second-generation "baby boomers," those born between 1971 and 1974, tend to feel they were dealt a bad hand in life and find themselves at more of a disadvantage as they grow older, an online survey commissioned by The Asahi Shimbun shows.

The experience of a 46-year-old woman who lives in Kanagawa Prefecture seemed to sum up what many people from that generation feel.

The woman said she had to face fierce competition to land a job after she graduated from college and has been plagued by Japan’s lackluster economy since she first found work. She laments that she was born at the wrong time in Japan's history.

But her sister, who is a year younger, tells a different tale. She landed a job at a big-name company with little difficulty after she graduated from high school. At that time, the “employment ice age,” a decade-long period that started in the mid-1990s after the collapse of the asset-inflated economy when graduates had a hard time finding a job, had yet to emerge.

The sister is married with two children.

The older sibling firmly believes Japan is not society where an individual is rewarded by their efforts. This sentiment was cited by 68 percent of respondents to the survey.

What matters seems to be the timing of the job search, she said.

The woman, a graduate of a national college, ended up applying to 100 or so companies in her quest to find a job as the employment ice age started to bite.

When she finally landed a job, she was the only woman on a career path who joined the company that year.

But she quit after the company's fortunes floundered and returned to her native Kansai region to work for a manufacturer. But she later left the company after it rejected her request for a transfer to Tokyo following her marriage.

“There's no point investing in a woman for a job transfer,” an official with the company told her.


She turned to a job with a foreign-affiliated company to take advantage of her English language skills, but did not stay long because of the grueling hours that led to health issues.

“I did better than my sister academically and got many credentials,” the woman said. “But the timing of my job search made a vast difference in our respective struggles to find work.”

She sometimes imagined having children. But she put off starting a family because she worried whether her offspring would ever find stable jobs, and then it was too late.

Second-generation baby boomers say the older they become, the more they find themselves at a disadvantage, compared with those born between 1965 and 1969, according to the survey.

The ratio of second-generation baby boomers who replied they were in a “disadvantageous” position or one that was “somewhat disadvantageous” in getting an education and taking entrance exams came to 63 percent.

The ratio of those who gave the same in response to job searches surged to 69 percent. With regard to paid remuneration, the figure rose to 72 percent, and to 82 percent when it came to claiming social security benefits.

Second-generation baby boomers also tend to have a bleak outlook on life, which perhaps reflects a lack of post-retirement savings.

Asked if they want to live to a great age, 59 percent said no compared with 37 percent who replied yes.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents with an annual household income of less than 4 million yen ($36,700) answered that they don’t want to live a long time.

A 47-year-old man in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, said a long life with little in the way of financial resources would be meaningless.

“People in our generation cannot depend on social security benefits because there are just too many of us,” said the man, who gets by on just one meal a day after he quit his temporary job at a factory late last year. “There will be no point living a long life if I have to continue as I am right now.”

According to the survey, a majority of the second-generation baby boomers view Japan as a society that doesn't give people a second chance. Sixty percent gave that response, while 37 percent felt they could make a fresh start if they failed at something.

The central government, in tandem with local authorities, has devised programs to help those who could not find stable work due to the employment ice age.

But the survey found that 78 percent do not expect to benefit from those programs in a meaningful way.

“It won't amount to much,” said a 48-year-old company employee. “It is just a ploy to underscore that they are doing something.”

With regard to the government’s proposal to raise the retirement age to 70, 54 percent were opposed while 40 percent were in favor.

The survey showed that more men than women objected to the proposal.

Sixty-one percent of the male respondents disagreed with the proposal, while the corresponding figure for women was 48 percent.

The survey was conducted by Cross Marketing, an online survey company, this month at the request of The Asahi Shimbun. The survey received responses from 1,000 men and women aged 45-48.

(This article was written by Eiko Ueki and Takashi Shinobori.)