Opinion: Which country has the worse problem?

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Young Japanese workers tend to work so much they are not interested in sex. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES
Young Japanese workers tend to work so much they are not interested in sex. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

The baying of young males on the wind, and the distant, delighted squeals of young girls on the pull, told me the New Year was imminent. Before they collapsed into the ritual orgies of vomit and sex, I fell asleep.

As usual there was a spike in family violence over Christmas and New Year, revealing what a wasted opportunity for pleasantries holidays are for many people who discover, on closer acquaintance, that they don't like each other very much. Wellington police had 200 violent incidents reported, the tip of the vast iceberg of rage and tears we call the festive season. A good idea, then, to cut funding to Women's Refuge.

The Pope, to do him credit, spoke out on the problems facing the world's youth, with house prices escalating and job opportunities shrinking everywhere while - as science fiction long predicted - robots have become smart enough to work tirelessly for no pay, an employer's wet dream.

I grew up in a country where beggars and homeless people did not exist. Will there be more or less of them in the year ahead?

Matsuri Takahashi, a 24-year-old university graduate, killed herself on Christmas Day last year by jumping out a window of the Dentu company dormitory, where she lived and worked.

The child of a solo mother, rare in Japan, she scored a job in its largest advertising agency only to be worked to death, which the Japanese call karoshi.

The head of the company is to resign next month because of her case, which recently gained attention, and the Japanese Government is to investigate the problem.

Meanwhile Dentu now forces staff to take a whole five days off every six months. What do they do with themselves with all that unaccustomed freedom? Cut their toenails slowly?

It can't be just coincidence that Japan has a falling birth rate, with many young people saying they are not interested in sex at all, or actively despise the idea. This has serious implications for the future of the country and its culture.

When would young people get the chance to meet likely lovers when, as in Matsuri's case, which isn't an exception, she worked 100 hours overtime every month after she joined the company? I should think a single bed to crash in would be most inviting thing she could imagine.

The phenomenon of no-sex young Japanese has been documented for several years now, yielding the astonishing fact that almost half of Japanese aged 18-34 have never had sex, while others have stopped because it is "bothersome" - say young women - while young men are "too tired after work".

Men there earn less now than they did in the 80s, and women are becoming more financially independent while, as in this country, two incomes and government top-ups are needed to raise a family.

In contrast to Matsuri's lethal overwork, 28-year-old convicted burglar Corey Thompson's perky image greeted the Christmas-New Year period on a newspaper front page, along with a few selfies he managed to post of himself from jail with what seems to have been a banned cellphone.

I do not think overwork is likely to become Thompson's problem as he serves a sentence of just over a year for, among other things, stealing $16,000 of greenstone from Artel Gallery in Waikanae, along with drug and driving offences. Possibly his problem has been unemployment and idleness, a sure recipe for mischief anywhere, in which case he would be more typical than not.

Rather than slogging his way through a first-rate degree like the doomed young Japanese woman, he seems to have emerged from his schooling with a baffling level of literacy. I am still trying to decode his published message to his Facebook friends about Christmas in the can: "Yea my bro roast chicken and apple pie n custard but made cakes n s ... wif farmbakes ect was pretty good ae I was stuffed yesterday and today had leftovers mean as haha lol." It seems he liked his dinner.

Gallery owner Maude Heath, whose business he robbed, was livid when she saw what looked nothing like punishment was going on in jail, and an absence of contrition, which realistically would be too much to hope for.

Thompson displayed three names he'd had tattooed on his chest while in the pokey, which seem to be Zaylah, Harmony and Dizelle.

It's likely that these are names of girlfriends or children, or both. Unlike young Japanese he has no problem with celibacy would be my guess.

A puzzle to ponder: Which country's problem is worse, and what might be the solutions?

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