Free noodles offered as Japan struggles with low voter turnout | Japan

A major Japanese ramen chain is offering young people free noodles ahead of Sunday’s upper house elections, amid widespread concern that the country’s disaffected youth won’t bother to vote.

Ippudo, which operates 50 ramen shops across the country, is offering free noodles for a fortnight from polling day Sunday through June 24, the Mainichi Shimbun said, provided they can show they voted.

Younger Japanese regularly complain that politicians are more interested in appealing to the country’s huge bloc of older voters, pointing to the low number of younger MPs in both houses of parliament.

“Politicians view the elderly, whose turnout is high, as important clients from whom they can win votes,” said Hiroshi Yoshida, a professor of economics of aging at Tohoku University. “On the other hand, young people are less important as occasional customers…. so policies favored by the elderly will inevitably be prioritized.”

An Ippudo spokesperson told Mainichi Shimbun newspaper it hoped their offer would “give people a chance to cast their votes, even if voting has not become a habit for them”.

Turnout among younger voters is consistently low, and few believe this weekend’s election will be an exception.

In last October’s elections to the more powerful House of Commons, only 36% of people in their 20s voted in single-seat constituencies, making them the least politically engaged group, according to the Home Office.

The 18 and 19-year-olds who were allowed to vote in 2016 were slightly more active: 43.2% voted. Turnout among people in their twenties has remained below 50% over the past three decades, the ministry said.

With the current election campaign dominated by the cost of living crisis, unfettered young voters are damaging their own financial future, according to a new study.

According to Hiroshi Yoshida, a professor of economics of aging at Tohoku University, they lose about ¥78,000 ($575) a year for every 1% drop in youth turnout.

After analyzing 40 years of election data, Yoshida concluded that the government is more likely to raise taxes and issue bonds, increasing the future debt burden on younger people, whenever turnout among the latter falls by 1%. . In addition, under the same circumstances, pensions will increase by more than youth benefits, such as childcare allowance, he said.

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