28 Jan 2011

Shoplifting by elderly people high in Japan

1:42 pm on 28 January 2011

Japan is known as a very safe country with low rates of crime. But shoplifting by elderly people has reached an all-time high.

The National Police Agency says 27,362 people aged 65 or over were arrested for shoplifting last year - almost equalling teenagers.

The NPA said most of them stole food or clothes rather than luxury items.

The BBC reports that Japanese society is ageing rapidly and its economy remains stalled.

More than 20% of the population are now over the age of 65 - a figure which is expected to rise to about 40% by 2050.

A police official told the Mainichi newspaper that pensioners were shoplifting not just for financial reasons "but also out of a sense of isolation peculiar to the age".

In recent decades the traditional three-generation household structure has changed - more young people have moved to cities to find employment, leaving elderly parents on their own.

Pensioners who want to work have also found it harder to find jobs because of the economic crunch.

Police say the record high represents a persistent trend.

When record keeping began in 1986, the number of pensioners arrested stood at 4,918. It has since climbed to 10,000 in 1999 and 20,000 in 2004.

Pensioners now comprise 26.1% of all shoplifters.