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Japan’s odd strategy to help its economy is to make its youth drink more

The Japanese is looking for new ways to make young people spend more on alcoholic beverages to help its industry and taxations rates.

EFE - Japan’s Tax Agency has launched a competition for business ideas aimed at encouraging young people to drink more alcohol, given the decline in alcohol consumption in the wake of the pandemic and the consequent drop in tax revenues.

The campaign, dubbed “Sake viva!”, invites proposals to “revitalize the alcoholic beverage industry and solve its problems,” according to its website.

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The aim is to “increase public awareness of the alcoholic beverage industry, which is experiencing difficulties due to covid and the low birth rate, leading to fewer consumers,” a spokesman for the Japanese Tax Agency told Efe.

This agency is also working to support the national alcohol industry by promoting the export of products such as sake (rice liquor), “which are an important part of Japan’s culture and tradition”, according to the same source.

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Faced with the criticism that the campaign is receiving on social networks for promoting unhealthy habits, the spokesman pointed out that the Tax Agency “is not looking for excessive alcohol consumption and also works to educate young people for moderate consumption”.

Alcohol tax collections in Japan fell in fiscal 2020 by 110 billion yen (€799 million) to 1.13 trillion yen (€8.216 billion), the biggest drop in 31 years, according to Tax Agency data.

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The average per capita spending on alcohol in bars and restaurants in 2020 was 9,000 yen (about €65), which is less than half of that recorded a year earlier, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior.

In contrast, average spending per Japanese household on alcoholic beverages rose from 41,000 yen (€298) in 2019 to 46,000 yen (€334) in 2020.

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Other official data and the income statements of Japanese companies in the sector also show a marked decline in sales of products with alcoholic content, as opposed to the upward trend in non-alcoholic beverages similar to beer or cocktails, and other products with energy properties or purported health benefits.

This evolution is attributed to the Asian country’s anti-contagion measures during the pandemic, which included the recommendation to citizens to avoid leaving home except for essential travel - although Japan never applied mandatory confinement -, and restrictions on opening hours for bars or restaurants or even their temporary closure.

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The Tax Agency’s campaign invites submissions of ideas to boost new services and methods to stimulate alcohol consumption among young people, propose products based on new lifestyles, and establish innovative distribution methods based on artificial intelligence or the metaverse.

The deadline for submitting proposals is open from the beginning of July until September 9, and a presentation will be made in November with the plans of the chosen finalists.

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