According to a recent Japanese government survey, around 613,000 people aged 40 to 64 are recluses who hide within the confines of their homes without going to work.
This group, dubbed hikikomori, is the most-affected age group. An estimated 541,000 recluses fall into younger age brackets.
The hikikomori phenomenon is thought to have affected some one million Japanese residents and is now considered a social issue.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry defines hikikomori as people who have remained isolated at home for at least six consecutive months, not going to school or work and not interacting with people outside their family.
The causes of this phenomenon are widely debated with some highlighting the immense pressure to succeed and stand out among one’s peers, as a major influencing factor. Others believe that negative experiences such as bullying during one’s school days are also to blame.
It is unknown whether a standard or case-by-case approach to re-integrate recluses to society is best, but what’s certain is the disastrous impact hikikomori will have on Japan’s economy and failing birth rate.
If more people decide not to work, they are essentially foregoing tax payments and other crucial components that keep the government going. With younger populations giving up normal lives for isolated existences, fewer will marry and reproduce.
Clearly Japan must take immediate action before this devastating phenomenon takes the country down a dark and tumultuous path.