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anonymoose

Shoplifting in Japan - what happened to Japanese honour?

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anonymoose

According to this BBC news report, Japan has the second highest rate of shoplifting worldwide (with the US first, and the UK third).

I can understand the US and UK figures, but I was always under the impression that (generally speaking) Japanese people are very honourable, and rarely take anything that is not their own, to the extent that if they find cash in the street, they will usually hand it in to the police. Is this just a myth, and if not, what happened to Japanese honour?

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gato

The ranking is by the total value of goods lifted, so it's correlated with the size of each country's economy. Japan has the second largest GDP in the world, so it's not too surprising that it would rank second in the total value of goods lifted.

A more interesting ranking would be by value of shoplifted goods as a percentage of the GDP. Looking at the GDP numbers below, it seems that Japan would rank lower if it's done by percentage.

(China isn't on the list. Did it not want to take part in a shoplifting survey?)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8347222.stm

FIVE COUNTRIES WORST HIT BY SHOPLIFTING*

1) US - £26.4bn

2) Japan - £6.031bn

3) UK - £4.886bn

4) Germany - £4.444bn

5) France - £4.203bn

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29

Rank ↓ Country ↓ GDP (millions of USD) ↓

1 United States 14,441,425

2 Japan 4,910,692

3 China 4,327,448h

4 Germany 3,673,105

5 France 2,866,951

6 United Kingdom 2,680,000

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HashiriKata
Japanese people are very honourable, and rarely take anything that is not their own, to the extent that if they find cash in the street, they will usually hand it in to the police.
This is true (=more true in Japan than in an average country) and this is the "traditional Japan". But there is another side of Japan: the "modern Japan" that is fathered by the US (= you won't find another country that is more willing to embrace "anything American" than Japan), and so one shouldn't be surprised to see "like father like son".

:wink:

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gato
(you won't find another country that is more willing to embrace "anything American" than Japan)

Except maybe Taiwan, though it's arguable whether it's a country. Haha.

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anonymoose
The ranking is by the total value of goods lifted, so it's correlated with the size of each country's economy. Japan has the second largest GDP in the world, so it's not too surprising that it would rank second in the total value of goods lifted.

Admitedly the total value of goods lifted would be correlated somehow with the size of the country, but I think a better measure would be the value of goods lifted per capita. This would show the average value stolen per person. In this case, of course, the ranking would change somewhat, but nevertheless, I'm still surprised to even see Japan on the list, let alone so close to the top.

Also, it's odd how the suposedly wealthiest nations have the highest amount of shoplifting. Can this simply be explained by factors such as GDP as Gato mentioned? Or could there be other influences, such as greater disparity between rich and poor, encouraging the poor to shoplift out of envy, or simply as people get richer, their morality decreases? Someone could write a thesis on this.

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wushijiao

It's been my experience that in relatively less economically developed countries (or even in poor areas of rich countries) security systems tend to be better, and there are more security guards, probably because the likelihood of theft is higher and the cost of security guards is much lower compared to developed countries. For example, I remember seeing guards with machine guns at tons of places in Mexico City back in the 1990's. There are also lots of guards (and superfluous employees watching your every move) in many Chinese supermarkets, and often you have to put your bag/backpack in a locker or in storage.

Another factor could be levels of drug use, which fuels shoplifting in the US. Drug use seems to get worse as societies develop, ie. the Hong Kong drug use problem is probably more serious than the Mainland's.

Don't know if it's true, but these are some initial thoughts.

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HashiriKata
Or could there be other influences, such as greater disparity between rich and poor
No, not in the least. To be fair, among the rich countries Japan is very good in this aspect: there are no disgusting extremes either side.

I don't have experience in shoplifting in Japan so I don't have much to say in this but just imagine: if you shoplift just a loaf of bread in Japan, in money terms that would be worth my one month salary in the UK :)

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chrix

gato, as an American, the TRA is also valid for you :mrgreen:

Well, you know nowadays company chiefs that made mistakes no longer commit seppuku, they only apologise to the public... Social cohesion is dwindling in the cities, so you will get some more crime. Actually, it's been a function of the contracting economy. Many Japanese like to blame Chinese people though. Every time you get a high-profile murder case involving a Chinese student murdering a Japanese family in a gruesome way, it is widely reported and many people reinforce their impression that the increase in crime rates is all due to foreigners...

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xianhua
if you shoplift just a loaf of bread in Japan, in money terms that would be worth my one month salary in the UK

You mean a loaf of bread costs £1500* in Japan?

* based on average monthly net pay.

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HashiriKata
You mean a loaf of bread costs £1500* in Japan?

* based on average monthly net pay.

But what made you think I'm average?

I am special!! :mrgreen:

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adrianlondon

Maybe their habit of making everything small and pocket sized has something to do with it ;)

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bhchao

I was always under the assumption that the Japanese crime rate is low because of the need to uphold the family honor. In previous decades, the ordinary Japanese citizen would be reluctant to commit crimes because of the disgrace such actions would bring to their families.

Is that family honor fading in Japan?

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tooironic

This reminds me of a report I saw on Lateline (Australia) the other night about the high number of elderly people in Japanese jails. For many Japanese senior citizens, it would seem, the security and routine of a prison cell is preferable to the tiny apartment they live in on their own, so much so that many apparently do petty crimes like shoplifting just so they can go back! Some are so isolated that they have reportedly passed away in their apartments without anyone checking up on them for weeks. :oops:

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chrix

in short: yes. I would ascribe it to the decreasing degree of social cohesion though rather than using an ideology-laden term such as "family honour". I'm no sociologist, but I wouldn't be surprised if the concept of "family honour" wasn't more prevalent amongst the warrior class than anywhere else!

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bhchao

Family honor is not an ideology-laden term. Family honor and social cohesion ARE linked in certain Asian countries.

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Outofin

The Economist has a very relevant and recent report.

http://www.economist.com/daily/chartgallery/displayStory.cfm?story_id=14842711&source=features_box4

No more worry, Japan lovers! India is way ahead of anyone else. Other poor countries follow, who are then followed by Western countries. China, Japan, and Taiwan have the lowest rates. The numbers are percent of total sales. That makes better sense than total loss.

http://media.economist.com/images/ga/2009w46/Shop.jpg

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Outofin

Now I think more of it, I don't think it means too much. It can't be translated to a society's moral standard. We don't know how the numbers are exactly collected. And we all know economists lack of common sense and are not good at numbers.

First, different items have different "stealability". I imagine appliance stores have near 0 shoplifting, because you can't just put a TV under your coat. If developing countries' retails are mostly small items, the rate will be naturally higher.

And what about population density, shopkeeper to customer ratio, the business mode (open shelves vs sale counters)... There are simply too many factors.

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jbradfor

@Outofin, that is an interesting graph. What I find most interesting is how similar the rates are (except in India). There is less than a 2x difference from the highest to the lowest (excluding India) for a wide range of countries.

So the fact that it is so consistent, does that tell us that somehow shoplifting is inherent in human nature? Or does it tell us that stores are willing to accept a 1-2% loss, and will spend money on security until they get the loss down to that rate? Or something else?

[Note that the article lists "theft and error"; in other words, "we don't know where it went". I've heard that a high percent of theft at stores comes from employees, wonder how that factors into this.]

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chrix

Also, don't forget that Japan is a culture of shame, not of guilt. So as long you're not caught, there is no shame... :mrgreen: Sorry, I just can't bring myself to discussing this seriously, but nevertheless I think there's some truth in this...

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anonymoose
as long you're not caught, there is no shame

But that contradicts, for example, the reputation Japanese people have for even handing in cash that they might find. They could keep it and noone would know. So either this reputation has no basis in actuality, or there is some sense of honesty/guilt even if noone witnesses the event.

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