These “net cafe refugees” are living in internet cafes for different reasons. Source: Disposable Workers

The economic recession in Japan has been taking its toll and a new documentary dubbed “Net Café Refugees” clearly brings out the hard choices regular Japanese need to make just to survive. The documentary was quite touching. One of the key stories was that of a 26-year-old security guard called Fumiya who, for the past 10 months, has made a tiny internet café his home. Fumiya says that the reason why he is making a life out of the cubicle is simply because he cannot afford to pay rent for an apartment in the city. On average, a security guard in Japan makes somewhere around $15 a night.

Although at first glance you’d assume that living in a tiny café is unfortunate, Fumiya sees it differently. In fact, he considers himself lucky to have found such an inexpensive accommodation saying that there are showers there and laundry. The situation Fumiya finds himself in is reminiscent of what other workers are facing. The situation has been blamed on the stringent work schedule in Japan as well as the rise of many part-time jobs that don’t provide enough income for workers to afford decent living spaces.

Living in an internet cafe is cheaper than living in an apartment or house. Source: Vice

The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare confirmed that in 2007 there were nearly 5,400 people who were living in internet cafés because they couldn’t afford decent accommodation facilities in the city. Even though most of the people who find themselves embroiled in the crisis are part-time workers on short contracts that don’t pay much, there is a huge underlying problem in the Japanese’s workforce. One person featured in the interview had a full-time salary job yet after a few years, he found himself living in the cafes for nearly 4 months. This man, who was identified as Tadayuki Sakai, said that working for a credit company he had to put in between 120 hours and 200 hours of overtime each month and this meant that he had very little time to go home. An internet café was, therefore, the next sensible option.

Internet cafes have everything from showers to laundry. Source: Disposable Workers

Sakai got depressed and eventually quit. Analysts argue that the documentary simply brings out a clear imbalance that is puzzling, to be honest. On one hand, you have a group of people who are working to death, putting in unreasonable overtime hours, while on the other hand, you have a population of workers who cannot afford any meaningful employment to afford an apartment in these major cities.

The country also went through a recession back in 2014 that was worse than earlier thought. The maker of the documentary said that one of the reasons why she made the film was to bring out the rough conditions Japanese workers are dealing with and the way workers in the country are treated as “disposable machines.” The increasing number of temporary jobs that provide no career advancement whatsoever in the long term are going to be part of the Japanese’s workforce and the long term impact they will have on the quality of worker’s life is expected to be huge in the future.