Train in Vain

Back to Contents of Issue: February 2004

On retirement, tech and talking on your cellphone

WORK TILL YOU DROP. The weekly "Be Between" survey appearing in the Asahi Shimbun asked 3,544 working adults whether they thought the age for compulsory retirement should be raised. 74 percent said yes. They gave such reasons as: People in their early 60s are still young (given by 2,185 people). Other responses included it's better for health to keep working (1,637 responses); retiring too early will cause economic hardship for people (1,376); the desire to work and develop abilities is not determined by age (1,352); and with the declining birthrate, if older people don't keep working, the working population will otherwise decline (997). The 26 percent who disagreed included those who said it reduces opportunities for younger workers (stated by 612); people should take it easy after aging (483); it will perpetuate gerontocractic corporate management (323); and people should start getting back the pensions they paid (295).

SO THEN: WHAT'S THE ideal age to retire? Well, 6 percent gave late 50s; 37 percent, the early 60s; 43 percent, late 60s; 8 percent, early 70s; 1 percent, late 70s; and 3 percent were willing to keep working until death. Not a bad idea as it will provide a pat solution to pension worries.

HI, HONEY, CAN YOU guess where I am right now? A survey of employees by the JR Tokai Railway Company discovered that 104 workers -- 30 drivers and 74 conductors -- admitted to making personal calls or sending email using their cellphones while on the job. Of these, 90 percent were aboard the Shinkansen. The bullet train, it seems, is easier to make such calls from because it affords the motormen and conductors more private cubicles from which to use their keitai. Of the 104 who came clean, 27 were Shinkansen drivers. None, however, admitted to using their phones while the train was moving; they said they did it while pulled over to a siding waiting for an express to pass. Such activities are a violation of transport regulations laid down by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. So far one 42-year-old driver has received an official reprimand.

JAPAN ADVANCES EIGHT SQUARES. According to the latest World IT Information Report covering 102 countries and regions, released just prior to the World Summit on the Information Society 2004 in Geneva, Japan rose from 20th in 2002 to 12th place last year in terms of the diffusion of Internet users. (In 2001, it was 21st.) The following is a list of the top 15 with the previous year's rankings shown in parentheses. 1, USA (2); 2, Singapore (3); 3, Finland (1); 4, Sweden (4); 5, Denmark (8); 6, Canada (6); 7, Switzerland (13); 8, Norway (17); 9, Australia (15); 10, Iceland (5); 11, Germany (10); 12, Japan (20); 13, Netherlands (11); 14, Luxembourg (27); and 15, UK (7). While Japan rated 1st in terms of the number of people engaged in research and development relative to its overall population, and 2nd in terms of "technical strength of its industries," it was ranked a low 81st overall in "efficiency of tax system" and an abysmally low 85th in terms of "controls on foreign investment."

THERE ARE, BELIEVE IT or not, disadvantages to owning a mobile phone. When the Aichi Prefectural consumer advocate questioned 400 adult males and females in the prefecture regarding things that bothered them about their keitai the number one complaint (multiple responses) was that their telephone expenditures soared (67.7 percent). This was followed by fears over exposure to electromagnetic signals (51.8 percent); concerns that the easy access to data would exert a bad influence on youth (50.5 percent); the constant stream of annoying calls and messages from people on weekends and holidays (49.5 percent); invasion of privacy (47.9 percent); breakdown between work and personal life (38.5 percent); decline in interpersonal relationships (22.8 percent); sense of anxiety when people don't contact you when they said they will (22.3 percent); and being bothered for information by people who don't own one (20.8 percent).

EVEN DEEPER IN THE hole. According to the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications (MPHPT), as of March 2001, only four of the 10 municipally operated subway lines in Japan finished in the black. They were the Midosuji Line (Osaka, JPY25.9 billion in earnings), the Asakusa Line (Tokyo, JPY5.8 billion), the Higashiyama Line (Nagoya, JPY5.4 billion) and the Nanboku Line (Sapporo, JPY1.7 billion). The rest lost a total of JPY130 billion -- Tokyo's Shinjuku Line alone lost JPY5.1 billion last year -- and boast a total accumulated deficit of JPY2.5 trillion. So much for Japan's "overcrowded and overpriced" trains. @

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