Japan’s Message To Its Youth: Drink More!
New contest is aimed at increasing alcohol consumption
Recently in Japan, societal changes, a shrinking population, and the lingering pandemic have combined to accelerate a drop in the percentage of young people who choose not to drink.
Overall, alcohol consumption in Japan has plunged from 100 liters per person annually in 1995 to 75 liters in 2020. Beer consumption declined by 20% between 2019 and 2020 alone. Tax revenue accounted for 1.7% of Japan’s total taxes in 2020, down from 3% in 2011 and 5% in 1980.
You might think this would be a cause of celebration for the government as social costs of alcohol consumption decline.
However, Japanese bureaucrats have found a distinctively dark lining in this seemingly silver cloud — less drinking means lower sin tax revenue.
In response, Japan’s National Tax Agency is calling upon young Japanese adults to help deal with the nation’s ballooning deficient and shrinking population by buckling up and having a few more belts.
An online contest dubbed “Sake Viva!” is asking Japanese between the ages of 20 and 39 to submit ideas for “new products and designs” to “stimulate demand among young people” for alcohol.
Officials believe that young people are better suited to coming up with new products that are more in line with modern concepts and sales schemes using artificial intelligence and metaverse concepts.
Needless to say, the Japanese government’s approach is being met with some pretty sharp criticism both at home and abroad. Until now, the government’s message to youth was to drink responsibly and even to abstain from drinking entirely, but now they seem to have shifted to getting young people to drink more.
The debate takes me back to the days when I first got to Japan. Back then, smoking was the norm, and telling someone that you don’t smoke was normally met with the retort, “Why not?”
When the health costs of smoking started to become an issue in other countries, there were calls in Japan to increase the tobacco tax and to limit areas where smoking was allowed. A number of politicians went public, expressing disbelief that the government should be willing to do anything that would endanger the income derived from tobacco taxes.