Japan creates contest to get young adults to drink more alcohol

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Japanese officials concerned about changing demographics and sharp decline in sin tax revenues, have come up with an unusual solution to their tax problems: encouraging young people to drink more.

“Sake Viva!” – a competition organized by the country’s tax authorities – calls on people aged 20 to 39 to come up with “business plans” to revive Japan’s drinking culture, long an integral part of business in the East Asian nation.

The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated a decades-long decline in Japanese alcohol consumption, with residents eating and drinking much less than usual. Although Japan never went into full lockdown, a state of emergency was declared in Tokyo, with measures including asking restaurants and bars to close early. At one point during the pandemic, the sale of alcohol in restaurants was banned, at other times it was restricted to certain hours of the day. While people drank more at home, total alcohol consumption was lower than normal.

Beverage tax revenue in fiscal 2020 was approximately $8.4 billion, according to government data, down more than $813 million from the prior year. That was the biggest drop in three decades — and a cause for concern for a government facing broad fiscal challenges.

According to the country’s tax authorities, alcohol consumption in Japan had fallen by about a third by 2020 from the annual average of 26½ gallons per person in the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, sales of non-alcoholic beverages – which are not subject to similar taxes – have grown in recent years, judging by industry figures.

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As in many economically developed places in the world, younger Japanese drink less than older generations. A 2019 Health Ministry survey found that 29.4 percent of 20-somethings drink no alcohol at all, while 26.5 percent said they rarely drink.

The unorthodox push from bureaucrats to “revitalize the beverage industry” has faced a backlash on social media. No major Japanese alcohol manufacturer has publicly expressed its support.

“Young people who don’t drink is a good thing. Why are you making them addicted,” one user wrote on Twitter, in a post that attracted hundreds of likes. Another wrote: “As long as they can collect taxes, I don’t think people’s health matters.”

The competition asks participants to propose new ways to boost drink sales, including the use of artificial intelligence and tapping into the metaverse – the virtual universe that combines aspects of digital technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality. Entries close on September 9 and the finalists will be invited to a tournament in Tokyo in November.

It also calls for “new services and promotion methods” to boost demand among young people and create products that take into account the lifestyle changes brought about by the pandemic.

The Ministry of Health was not immediately available for comment.

Inuma reported from Tokyo.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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