[FOUNTAIN]Anxiety for some“A lump of mineral that has become more solid than its surroundings due to concentration or condensation of a certain component.” This is the definition of “dangoe,” or nodule, in the Korean dictionary. Taichi Sakaiya used “dankai,” the Japanese word for “nodule,” as a sociodemographic term. Thanks to his 1976 novel “Dankai no Sedai,” or “The Nodular Generation,” the term came to refer to the baby boomers born between 1947 and 1949. Soldiers returned from service in the mainland China, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Upon returning to the devastated homeland, their only hope was the people. For three years starting in 1947, about 8 million babies were born. The birth rate in 1949 was 4.32, meaning Japanese women gave birth to an average of four children in each of their lives.
As the dankai generation grew up, Japanese society experienced an upheaval. When the baby boomers reached school age, schools around the country suffered a shortage of classrooms and teachers. The competition to get into schools became intense. As the dankai generation became young adults, they joined together in the student movement, staging anti-Vietnam War rallies. The dankai generation, which had been accustomed to intense competition from childhood, grew up to epitomize the “corporate type.” The baby boomers were the pillars of society as Japan went through its rapid economic development. These babies became the warriors of Corporate Japan. Then, as managers, through the prolonged economic slump of the 1990s, they did their best to bolster their struggling companies as they endured a sluggish business environment.
The dankai generation is now starting to turn 60, Japan’s retirement age. Japan is anxious about the social change the retirement of the dankai generation will bring. People are worried that when the baby boomers with all their expertise leave in waves, companies will suffer from a sharp reduction in skills and experience. A more serious issue is that the younger generation will have to carry an increased financial burden as they pay for the pension and welfare cost of the retirees. The Japanese media refer to these concerns as the “2007 problem.”
However, Japan’s problems seem like a pleasant agony. Looked at from one angle, the 2007 problem means that there are many people who have been employed up to their retirement age who will now be paid handsome retirement benefits. It would seem the early discharges from work and the growing unemployment rate among middle-aged men are far more serious problems than the mass retirement of the dankai generation.
The writer is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yeh Young-june