Elderly customers shop in a grocery store in Tokyo, Aug. 12, 2005. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg News
Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) — More senior citizens are picking pockets and shoplifting in Japan to cope with cuts in government welfare spending and rising health-care costs in a fast-ageing society.
Criminal offences by people 65 or older doubled to 48,605 in the five years to 2008, the most since police began compiling national statistics in 1978, a Ministry of Justice report said.
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.”