More young Japanese commit suicide amid job fears

Thu May 14, 2009 6:58am EDT
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TOKYO (Reuters) - Economic woes triggered a rise in suicides among young Japanese last year, with the number of people in their 30s taking their own lives hitting a record high, a police report said on Thursday.

The overall number of suicides fell by 2.6 percent to 32,249, the 11th year in a row the figure has remained above 30,000, according to the National Police Agency.

Those in their 50s were most likely to become victims -- making up almost 20 percent of the total.

But suicides among people in their 30s have been on the rise since 1991. One expert blames Japanese industry's increasing reliance on casual labor.

"The reason many men in their 50s commit suicide is to leave insurance money for their families," Chuo University professor Masahiro Yamada told the Mainichi newspaper. "But those in their 30s have difficulty seeing any prospects for the future. The lay-offs of casual workers are a symbol of this."

Hundreds of thousands of casual workers have been made redundant over the past half year, as Japan's export-dependent economy staggered amid the global slowdown.

The police report showed 4,850 people aged between 30-39 took their own lives in 2008, up 1.7 percent on 2007 and about double the 1991 figure, the report showed.

Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world, at 24 for every 100,000 people. By comparison the rate in the United States stands at 11.1.

Although depression was the most common cause, there were sharp rises in the number of people in the 30-39 age group thought to have committed suicide because they had failed to find a job, were unemployed, or were having difficulty making a living, the Mainichi said, citing the police.

Suicides by people in their teens and 20s are also on the rise, the police said. More than half those who died were unemployed and another 28 percent were casual workers.

(Editing by Alex Richardson)