Japan’s Latest Drinking Advice: Drink More, Please

While most countries would welcome sobriety among their youth, Japan has veered in the opposite direction: with a campaign to get them to drink more alcohol.

The East Asian nation’s tax agency is asking for ideas on how to get young citizens to tip more as the finance ministry frets over the tax implications of generational change.

The “Sake Viva!” backed by the unorthodox government! The competition ends in early September and invites people aged 20-39 to participate in developing business ideas to revitalize an industry affected by changing demographics, the pandemic and declining interest.

The planned intervention follows the failure of Japan’s beverage industry, despite all its marketing powers, to stem a long-term decline in alcohol consumption in Japan that began well over a decade before. the pandemic.

Taxes on alcoholic products made up 3% of government tax revenue in 2011, but had fallen to 2% in 2020, according to the tax agency. The Japanese government runs a chronic budget deficit and has total debts equivalent to more than twice the country’s gross domestic product.

A decline in the total volume of alcohol consumed in Japan was inevitable once the indigenous population began to decline more than a decade ago and the proportion of citizens over the age of 65 rose to more than a quarter. of the country eight years ago.

According to figures released by the tax agency, the average annual alcohol consumption per adult in Japan fell from 100 liters per year in 1995 to 75 liters in fiscal year 2020.

‘Sake Viva!’ is the latest in a long history of Japanese government projects © Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg

In 2018, the World Health Organization estimated the annual per capita consumption rate in Japan – expressed in terms of pure alcohol – at eight liters per year, more than China’s 7.2 liters but less than the UK’s 11.4.

Young Japanese, like many others of their generation elsewhere in the world, drink less than their ancestors and increasingly do not drink at all.

“Sake Viva!” is the latest in a long history of programs designed to offset the effects of Japan’s aging and shrinking population, as well as changing attitudes towards health and consumerism.

The tax agency launched a campaign “Enjoy the sake!” project earlier this year and asked for event ideas to promote the sale of alcoholic beverages.

The latest competition aims to bring out ideas that recognize fundamental changes in lifestyle – not only those caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but also the longer-term factors weighing on Japan’s consumption habits.

Organizers hope participants will come up with “new products and designs”, as well as plans to encourage drinking at home. They also hope to find ways to use the metaverse to generate the kind of bonhomie that would traditionally lead to opening a bottle.

Japan’s health ministry said it did not cooperate with the tax agency in its competition, but was in regular and close contact with it on alcohol and health issues. The ministry added that it expected the campaign to take into account the “appropriate amount of alcohol consumption” that would prevent major health problems.

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