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In the new Pokemon Detective movie, Pokemon training is extremely common, so much so that it's considered a shock when Tim doesn't have a partner.

However I seem to recall that in the first games part of the point was that most people were not Pokemon trainers, only a select few were.

So, just how common is Pokemon training and ownership in the Pokemon universe? And does it vary by region?

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    In the new film, training is still extremely uncommon but everyone seems to have a "pokemon partner", even if they're not an active pokemon collector. This chimes nicely with the TV show and manga where partner pokemon are common (Joy + Chansey/Blissey/Audino/Wigglytuff/Comfey or Jenny + Growlithe/Arcanine/Stunky) – Valorum Jun 20 at 16:12
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    @Valorum To frame it in our world a bit; it's the difference between pet owners and pet trainers. A lot of people own pets; but very few people train pets to an extent that they would label themselves as "pet trainers". Training dogs is common practice among dog owners, but being someone who considers themselves a dog trainer is much less so. – JMac Jun 20 at 16:23
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    @JMac - It's still an interesting question though. How many actual trainers are generated each year. I suspect it's a question that won't stand up to worldbuilding levels of scrutiny. – Valorum Jun 20 at 16:58
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    Ash's village appears to have generated several trainers in a single year. if we assume this is common across his region, which appears to have several dozen towns and one or two large cities, then we are looking at potentially 100 or more wannabe-pro-trainers per year in one region (of which there are 10 or more in Japan) – Valorum Jun 20 at 17:00
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    @Valorum I agree that the question of how common trainers are is still an interesting question that isn't nearly as trivial as our comments. – JMac Jun 20 at 17:54
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Companions vs. trainers

It's important to distinguish Pokémon training (by those who travel from region to region) with those who simply have one or a few companion Pokémon. Almost all characters have a companion but only a proportion of each town's children seem to go off to become trainers each year.

Demographics

In Ash's hometown of Pallet Town there were three other children who set off from the same class. Since his village only has a tiny population it's clear that a good chunk at least attempt to be trainers even if they don't get very far. From Ash's class, two trainers flunked out within their first year, abandoned their Pokémon and returned home and only Ash and Gary continued on. The implication is that this was a fairly normal number which is why there were (almost) sufficient Pokémon to use as starters.

The wider world

As far as how common it is in other regions, this is addressed in the prose novel Pocket Monsters: The Animation. In short, Pokémon training is a potential career and a potential source of prestige for young wannabes. Worldwide there are millions of trainers and getting into the top 10,000 is seen as a worthy feat (with the potential to make enough money to live on) and getting into the top 1000 is sufficient to make you a home-town celebrity.

Masara Town is a small town out in the boonies. Despite being legal adults, there's barely any job openings for primary school graduates there.
Due to the lack of jobs, it is a town where most children decide to become Pokémon Trainers.
In fact, most of Satoshi's seniors had left Masara Town to become Pokémon Trainers. But unfortunately, no trainers from Masara Town ever made it into the national daily top ten charts in the newspapers or TV reports.
However, the popular children's magazine “Pokémon Comic” which boasts a readership of five million as well as the adult oriented specialist magazine “Monthly Pokémon Trainer” and its rival publication “Pokémon Pals (Commonly referred to as PokéPal)” always have a monthly Best 10,000 Trainers list.
Right near the bottom of that list, you may find some trainers from Masara Town. When this happens, the trainers is featured on the front page in the local paper Weekly Masara Town News with a huge photo and are considered a local hero... Everyone in town throws a huge party. The only supermarket in town celebrates with a bargain sale. Outside their family home, congratulatory telegrams and bouquets are lined up, like a wreath at the grand opening of a pachinko parlour.

...

A man from the town named Masara Ookido ranked 931st in the national trainer rankings. It was the first time anyone from the town had ever made it into the top 1000. Masara Ookido was more than just a local hero, he was practically worshipped as a god. In their excitement, the townspeople erected a bronze statue of him in the town square, and changed the name of the town to Masara Town. Up until that point, it had been known as Masshiro Town. Naturally, the new name of the town was decided by a local referendum. On top of that, Masara Ookido was also elected as the town's mayor.

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    I have a hard time with the answers in that question from Anime. Pallet town is a pretty small place. Small enough where kids the same age would be familiar with each other through school and other activities. Ash and Damien should already be familiar with each other, but their interactions make it appear that they were complete strangers to each other instead. However, I completely agree this answer's argument. – Ellesedil Jun 20 at 23:45
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    @Ellesedil - It's a toughie. The makes of the show have repeatedly acknowledged that the 'other trainers' were simply a plot device to ensure that Ash received a special Pokémon not available in the video game. That being said, It's certainly possible that they weren't from Pallet Town but another even smaller satellite town. – Valorum Jun 21 at 0:00

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