Thu, Aug 30, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Japan concerned by emergence of `net cafe refugees'


Japan estimated on Tuesday that it has more than 5,000 "net cafe refugees," a new class of working poor who live in all-night lounges and are seen as a sign of a growing rich-poor gap.

Internet cafes and "manga" comic cafes are omnipresent in urban Japan, offering couches, computers, soft drinks and comic books to stressed businessmen or commuters who missed their train.

But a government survey found that an estimated 5,400 people have virtually moved in to the 24-hour cafes.

It said some 80 percent of Japan's "net cafe refugees" are men and that 52.7 percent said they decided to live in the lounges because they lost their jobs.

Another 13.8 percent said they moved into the net cafes because of deteriorating relationships with their families, according to the survey by the health and welfare ministry.

The average salary of the "refugees" was ¥113,000 (US$983) per month -- about equivalent to what a minimum-wage employee would earn in Tokyo if working 40 hours a week.

The health ministry launched the first-of-a-kind survey, which questioned operators and customers at 3,000 Internet cafes nationwide, amid growing national attention to the problem.

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