November 7, 2013


'Big Issue' Magazine Sold by Homeless People Marks 10th Anniversary

Keywords: Eco-business / Social Venture NGO / Citizen Well-Being 

A magazine vendor (middle) and CEO Shoji Sano (third right) at Big Issue 10th anniversary event.

The Big Issue Japan magazine, a magazine sold by the homeless to financially support themselves, marks its 10th anniversary on September 11, 2013. The magazine aims not to "rescue" the homeless, but to encourage them to become financially independent by providing them with work as magazine vendors.

Magazine vendors earn 160 yen (about US$1.6) per copy sold, after purchasing the magazine worth 300 yen (about US$3) for 140 yen (about US$1.4) per copy. Since its launch 10 years ago, 5.75 million copies of the magazine have been sold, with the total income of vendors exceeding 806.9 million yen (about US$8.23 million). The total number of registered vendors is 1,488, out of which 164 have become financially independent and returned to the working world. (As of May 2013)

Despite these accomplishments, the Big Issue Japan founder and CEO Shoji Sano says, "we are not quite there yet." Actually, the homeless issue in Japan is far from being resolved. Especially after the Lehman Brothers collapsed, young homeless people have become more prominent. The average age of Big Issue vendors in Tokyo decreasing from 56 to 45 during the period from 2008 to 2010 spurred the Big Issue Japan Foundation to sound the alarm by issuing its "White Paper on Homeless Youth."

Mr. Sano expressed his wish to "create an inclusive society where each individual has a place and role in society." With the help of his network of contacts built over these past 10 years, he hopes to contribute to the rebuilding of livelihoods for people excluded from society.