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New underclass dossing in Japan's net cafes

5,400 'refugees' seek cybersanctuary

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Japan's health and welfare ministry says it has identified 5,400 "Net cafe refugees" - a new underclass driven by hard times to doss down in 24-hour cybercafes, the Telegraph reports.

These unfortunates are the fall-out from Japan's economic slump following the 1980s boom years. Despute the current rise in Japan's fortunes, there are "still not enough jobs to go around, meaning a rising homeless population and thousands who lead a hand-to-mouth existence".

Indeed, 27 per cent of the Net cafe refugees are "in their 20s and work in convenience stores or on construction sites, while 23 percent are in their 50s". They told the ministry that their ill fortune was caused variously by a lack of steady work, being made redundant or "discovering that their pensions were not able to cover their living expenses".

Miku Sano, editor of the Japanese-language version of The Big Issue, said: "These people want to find jobs, but there's not enough steady work for them to save enough to pay for rent or, often, buy enough food each day."

Although the ministry says it is adressing the problem, and "plans to draw up support measure for who are living in cafes by providing dormitories and helping them find work", Sano added: "The government has at least started to look at the issue, which is good, but the problem is already growing and for many people it's their only option at the moment. I think this number will continue to grow and the situation is not going to get any better in the near future." ®

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