The Fruits of ZIRP: Japanese Elderly Steal to Make Ends Meet

Theft is the most common crime of senior citizens, many of whom face declining health, low incomes and a sense of isolation, the report said. Elderly crime may increase in parallel with poverty rates as Japan enters another recession and the budget deficit makes it harder for the government to provide a safety net for people on the fringes of society.

The elderly are turning to shoplifting as an increasing number of them lack assets and children to depend on,'' Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor at Chuo University in Tokyo and an author of books on income disparity in Japan, said in an interview yesterday.We won’t see the decline of elderly crimes as long as the income gap continues to rise.’’

Crime rates among the elderly are rising as the overall rate for Japan has fallen for five consecutive years after peaking in 2002. Over 60s accounted for 18.9 percent of all crimes last year compared with 3.1 percent in 1978, with shoplifting accounting for 80 percent of the total, the report said.

The government aims to cut 220 billion yen ($2.3 billion) from social welfare spending in each of the five years starting 2006 as it seeks to balance the budget by 2011. As part of this plan, the government introduced a new health insurance system that would raise premiums for some elderly patients.

The initiative has stirred anxiety about pensions and health care, and Japan’s economic situation is doing little to help.

``Some elderly, particularly men who lost their wives, even turn to crimes to be put in jail so they can be fed three times a day,’’ Yamada said.

It will be a lot worse in the United States, I can tell you that.

Well, they couldn’t put their money in the Nikkei 225 Index Fund because that would lose a lot. I guess all they have to survive were their savings that generated low yields. Too bad the United States does not have that.

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