TOKYO -- Japan's young people will lose about 78,000 yen (about $570) a year for every 1% drop in youth voter turnout, according to an estimate by a Tohoku University professor.
Ahead of the July 10 House of Councillors election, the Mainichi asked Hiroshi Yoshida, a professor of the economics of ageing who researches economic fairness between different generations, why it hits young people especially hard when they do not vote.
Yoshida has compared voter turnout of "older generations" aged 50 and over, and "younger generations " aged 49 and younger, in national elections for the past 40 years. The turnout gap between the older and younger generations increases over time, paralleling new government bond issues.
Yoshida hypothesized that when the government picks whether to raise taxes or issue government bonds to cover its financial commitments, "it will choose to issue government bonds if voter turnout among the young is low." He then analyzed the relationship between voter turnout and how much new national debt is created.
He found that if the youth turnout falls by 1%, about 31,590 yen (roughly $230) worth of new government bonds will be issued per person, leading to a greater future burden on those people. Even if youth turnout does not decline, the creation of national debt increases by about 15,890 yen (approx. $120) per person per year due to rising spending. Therefore, Yoshida pegged the total estimated "burden increase" at 47,480 yen (some $350) per year.
He also analyzed the relationship between voter turnout and social security benefits. Examining the gap between funds allocated to the elderly such as pension payouts, and those handed out to young people including child care allowances, he estimated that the former group will get 30,072 yen (roughly $220) more in benefits than the latter every time turnout of young people falls by 1%.
Based on this figure, Yoshida concluded that when the youth turnout drops by 1%, they lose around 77,552 yen (some $570) a year.
Regarding the aim of his research, Yoshida said, "Even if the government issues an enormous amount of debt, paying it back takes a long time, so not all of that burden will fall on today's elderly. Unlike tax increases, it is difficult to see the impact (of debt) on the younger generation. I wanted to spread the word that even though you can't see it, you will suffer the price if you do not vote."
He continued, "For politicians, elderly people, whose turnout rate is high, are like 'important customers' whom they can get votes from. On the other hand, low-turnout young people are like occasional customers, so are less important. Because of this, policies favored by the elderly inevitably get prioritized."
(Japanese original by Mari Sakane, Digital Editorial Headquarters Strategy Group)