Japan wants to increase alcohol consumption among young people; understand the reason

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The Japanese government has been hit in the pocket by an unusual problem – its young people aren’t drinking enough.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, bars and other establishments that sell alcohol have been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions, causing sales – and alcohol tax revenues – to tumble in the world’s third-largest economy.

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The government’s solution? Launch a contest to find new ways to encourage young people to drink more.

The “Sake Viva!” campaign, overseen by the National Tax Agency, invites participants to submit ideas on how to “stimulate youth demand” for alcohol through new services, promotional methods, products, designs and even sales techniques. using artificial intelligence or the metaverse, according to the competition’s official website.

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“The domestic alcohol market is shrinking due to demographic shifts such as declining birthrates and an aging population, and lifestyle changes due to the impact of Covid-19,” the website said, adding that competition aims to “attract the younger generation … to revitalize the industry”.

The contest includes promotional ideas for all types of Japanese alcohol, with entries open until September 9. Finalists will be invited for an expert consultation in October, before a final tournament in November in Tokyo. The winner will receive support for their plan to be marketed, according to the IRS.

But not everyone is on board, with the competition and tax agency taking criticism from some people online.

“Are you kidding me?” wrote one Twitter user. “Staying away from alcohol is a good thing!”

Others pointed out that it seemed inappropriate for a government agency to encourage young people to drink, and it appeared that the campaign had not considered health risks or sensitivity towards people dealing with alcoholism.

Japan’s Ministry of Health has warned in the past about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption. In a post on his website last year, he called binge drinking a “major social problem” that has persisted despite a recent slowdown in consumption. And it urged people with unhealthy drinking habits to “reconsider” their relationship with alcohol.

A ministry spokesperson declined to comment on the tax agency’s competition when contacted by CNN .

Declining sales

Japan, along with several other countries in Asia, maintained tight restrictions for much of the pandemic, closing public spaces and reducing restaurant opening hours.

Izakayas – Japanese versions of a pub or tavern – have been particularly hard hit, with the latest available figures showing sales halved from 2019 to 2020, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

With fewer opportunities to drink in public, the rate of “domestic consumption” – drinking at home – “has increased significantly”, the ministry said.

But young adults stood out as the exception. About 30% of people between the ages of 40 and 60 drink regularly, meaning three days or more a week, the ministry said – compared with just 7.8% of people in their 20s.

“As such, the decline in consumption habits year on year is believed to be affecting the shrinking domestic market,” the ministry said.

In a 2021 report, the tax agency said alcohol taxes were an important source of government revenue for centuries, but have declined in recent decades. Japan received 1.1 trillion yen ($8.1 billion) in alcohol taxes in 2021 – 1.7% of total tax revenue, compared with 3% in 2011 and 5% in 1980.

Japan lifted its state of emergency in October 2021, allowing restaurants to sell alcohol again and remain open until later – but restrictions in some parts of the country remained in effect until March this year.

The country’s recovery since then has been slower than expected, hampered by rising inflation, the economic impact of the war in Ukraine and recent outbreaks of Covid-19 cases that have led to prolonged restrictions.

CNN’s Kathleen Benoza contributed the report.

Source: CNN Brasil

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