11.1 Policies

11.1.1 Birth Rate Target

  1. 1.

    The government should create a demographic policy that will both mitigate and adapt to population decline.

  2. 2.

    Based on the desired ideal of 2.4 children per family, set as a target the achievement of a total fertility rate of 2.1 between 2040 and 2050, and then formulate and implement the policies necessary to reach the goal.

  3. 3.

    Transfer income from households that are not raising children to those that are.

While raising pension entitlements depending on the number of children and the childrearing period, the total pension amount should be reduced by 5% through taxes on the pension income as soon as possible, and the benefit age should be raised to 70 years of age within 10 years.

(Intergenerational assistance has already begun with a macro-economic slide for pensions, which are up 0.9% in fiscal 2015).

  1. 4.

    Amend the medical care system for the elderly in the latter stage of life (the Act on Securing Medical Care for the Elderly), and make the medical burden of the elderly a uniform 30%.

(When the government created its policy of free medical care for the aged in 1973, both an aging population and population decline were unexpected. In a subsequent reform of the health system for elders, a 10% self-pay burden of medical expense was imposed, which was further raised to 20%. Both changes respectively took about ten years to implement.)

  1. 5.

    Promote measures not only for longevity but also for extending a healthy life expectancy.Footnote 1 The retirement system should be abolished, and age-free labor practices and legal systems coordinated so all are able to work to the best of their ability and responsibility regardless of age.

(This can be expected to contribute to improving the balance between work and home for child-raising households by allowing the elderly in good health who wish to continue working to do so, as well as keeping elderly people healthy and not requiring care.)

(The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report “Live longer, Work longer” predicts that the proportion of inactive elders in OECD countries as a whole will rise from 38% in 2000 to 70% in 2050 if work patterns and the retirement age remain unchanged. Footnote 2 )

11.1.2 Declining Birth Rate Measures

  1. 6.

    Raise the GDP ratio of family relationship spendingthe public funding scale of cash and taxes, childcare leave, and childcareto the same 3% as in other countries where countermeasures for declining birth rates are successful (e.g., France, Sweden). The GDP ratio of family related spending in Japan was 1.35% in fiscal 2011.

Specifically, financial resources derived from reviewing measures for the elderly should be invested in declining birth rate measures.

The Basic Law on Declining Birth Rate Society Countermeasures should be amended and implementation of this goal made compulsory for the government.

  1. 7.

    Lower the relative poverty rate and the child poverty rate to the OECD average.

Specifically, the relative poverty rate of 16.0% should be lowered to 11.3%, and the child poverty rate from 15.7% to 13.3%.Footnote 3 We should note that the poverty rate of children in single-parent families is more than 50%, and requires immediate action.

(Given the tightness of public finances , political handouts should be avoided and income restrictions for social security benefits and other expenditures should be stricter.)

  1. 8.

    Switch to a social system that prioritizes pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing.

    1. (a)

      Create in-house childcare facilities in offices and factories, and a work environment that watches over children.

    2. (b)

      Create a family-friendly working environment by introducing flextime systems for workers commuting with children.

    3. (c)

      Introduce railway fare incentives for children during summer vacation.

    4. (d)

      Create safe places in the community where children up to junior high school age can learn and play, helping to both foster the child’s social skills and the parent’s work–life balance .

  2. 9.

    Promote matchmaking within the private sector level for unmarried men and women.

(Around 50% of unmarried men and women of 2534 years of age cite “not meeting an appropriate partner” as their reason for not marrying. Arranged marriages once accounted for nearly 70% of all marriages but have fallen to 5% in recent years.)

  1. 10.

    Give all children equal rights.

Eliminate legal categories of discrimination between the so-called legitimate and illegitimate children and create a system where it is easier to get married.

  1. 11.

    Promote national initiatives linking foster parenting and special adoptions, so that all babies born have the chance for a happy future.

This would require strengthening consultation and support systems, as well as the budgets and staffing for key actors and child guidance centers. The government should ensure children’s welfare and smooth administrative responses—and that these are delivered without disparity to all regions—and should also consider enacting legislation in the future to promote these efforts.

(Official statistics place the number of abortions in Japan at around 200,000 per year, but the actual number is believed to be higher. While there are various background factors, most likely some of these are unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. Rebuilding a more effective and wide-ranging special adoption systemcurrently used only in a limited waymight induce some women with an unplanned pregnancy to choose to give birth. The so-called Aichi Scheme that has been both ambitious and successful with adoptions is a useful point of reference.) Footnote 4

11.1.3 Work–Life Balance

  1. 12.

    Fundamentally change the life course of young people, and especially women. Women in their 20s and early 30s should be encouraged to position this time as a dual life stage for education, marriage, childbirth, child-raising, and work, and the 40s as a full-fledged working life stage.

  2. 13.

    To realize this life course strategy, work hours should be shortened, overtime abolished, and telecommuting promoted for those in their 20s and early 30s. There should also be a substantial overhaul of corporate career development plans for this age group.

  3. 14.

    After a mother has given birth, the government should send out a “Father’s Handbook” outlining information such as the respective rights and obligations of parent and child, childcare leave, and a child-raising planner.

  4. 15.

    Establish a social security system that enables labor flexibility.

    1. (a)

      Amend the social security system, which assumes a system of lifetime employment and a gender division of labor, to build more neutral social plans for choosing work styles.

(In Japan, poor labor flexibility means that new graduates are unevenly distributed to certain popular industries; this distortion then becomes fixed over the long term, which makes reforming or transforming Japan’s industrial structure difficult. Labor flexibility is desirable for optimizing human resource allocation in line with changes in society.)

  • Make equal pay for equal work an overarching principle.

(For labor with the same relative value in terms of quantity and quality, the principle of equal pay regardless of gender, age, and race would eliminate disparities especially based on gender and work status.)

  • Promote an expanded application of employee insurance and return the national pension system to its original purpose of being for the self-employed.

(It is possible to correct disparities in social insurance by expanding and applying it to all employees above a certain wage income, 58,000 yen or more/month, as well as to end dependent spouses.)

  1. 16.

    Build a social system better able to take advantage of skilled elders.

(E.g., science education/experiment guidance, schoolchild care/junior and senior high school student after-school tutoring, individual learning guidance for children with development disabilities by retirees with the required expertise.)

11.1.4 Education

  1. 17.

    Expand a scholarship system that does not require repayment.

Steep tuition fees for higher education results in the excessive reliance of young people on their parents and delays the independence of youth. To overcome this, scholarship programs that do not require loans should be expanded.

Keeping in mind the case of European universities, measures should be taken such as doubling national university corporation operating grants and private school subsidies.

  1. 18.

    Offer greater opportunities for pre-school education.

(Not only higher education, but also pre-school education breaks the poverty chain.) Footnote 5

  1. 19.

    Adopt “recurrent education” to improve career paths by offering higher education opportunities after raising children.Footnote 6

11.1.5 National Land Policy and Population Relocation

  1. 20.

    As well as creating a national land policy with a vision for regional population relocation, link that vision to specific measures and budgets.

  2. 21.

    Lower the number of people who cannot get access to basic services less than an hour from their homes, and aim to make this number as close to zero as possible.

This will require the expansion of social infrastructure, ensuring public transport services, relocation of residents through city aggregation, as well as the enhancement and diversification of home services.

(Basic services cover those generally supplied to a population on the order of several thousand to 10,000 people, such as basic education [ elementary and junior high schools] , the postal service, and general clinic functions. The government should regularly survey and analyze the status quo and closely monitor developments to ensure the necessary services are not lacking.)

  1. 22.

    When the supply costs of administrative services and facilities to residential areas with a low population density are significantly high, the government should be allowed to lower the quality and quantity of services.

  2. 23.

    The number of regional metropolitan areas lacking the required advanced urban facilities for maintaining a working-age population should be reduced to zero in order to restore and maintain the population density .

(Advanced urban facilities cover those services generally supplied to a population in the hundreds of thousands, such as shopping centers or department stores, cinemas, museums, universities, and law firms. The government should publish data on the status quo.)

  1. 24.

    Build regional comprehensive care and compact cities centering on cities with a high likelihood of maintaining a population in excess of 100,000 by 2050.

11.1.6 Land and Housing

  1. 25.

    Create a society where use takes precedence over ownership.

(During high growth and economic expansion, people aspired to own land and a home. This is because they were able to accumulate wealth through reselling or renting. Such real estate appreciation cannot be expected in a low-growth society with a declining population. As the meaning of ownership fades, a move from ownership to use has begun in some areas. A declining population should prioritize those who use rather than own, and greater levies should be imposed on people who own but do not utilize the property.)

  1. 26.

    Switch housing tax benefits from those who buy new homes to those who acquire existing homes, especially the acquisition and renovation of vacant houses .

  2. 27.

    Public housing should prioritize collective houses.Footnote 7

11.1.7 Metropolitan Area Measures

  1. 28.

    Tokyo must enhance its resilience to natural disasters in order to increase sustainability.

(According to estimates, the risk of natural disaster risk in Tokyo and Yokohama is eight times higher than Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto)

  1. 29.

    Establish legal requirements for non-sound fire alarm equipment with the aim of a 100% penetration rate for the increasing number of elders, care recipients, and people with disabilities in the metropolitan area.

  2. 30.

    Companies should jointly develop a business continuity system for an entire metropolitan area so that its social and economic functions are not disrupted even in times of crisis.

  3. 31.

    Reduce to zero by 2035, the number of buildings designed and built with pre-1981 seismic standards, or those that have not been subsequently earthquake reinforced.

  4. 32.

    Raise Tokyo’s total fertility rate to the national average.

(Tokyo was 1.13 in 2013, compared to a national birth rate of 1.43. If Tokyo’s birth rate can be improved, it would also help resolve the problem of the Tokyo metropolitan area pulling in the populations of other prefectures, and in the long term it would also be an advantage for responding to aging in the city.)

11.1.8 “Strong Cities” and “Strong Companies” in the Regions

  1. 33.

    Aim at creating 50,000 jobs for young people each year through the growth of core companies in the region.

  2. 34.

    Create strong companies and strong cities in the regions to attract back young locals that have moved away, and encourage other new residents. Business innovation is created on the back of the private sector .

11.1.9 Overseas Workers

  1. 35.

    Develop employment and career paths for foreign students following completion of their studies as a framework leading to future settlement in Japan. Specifically, promote initiatives for the expansion of corporate hiring schemes for international students, the adoption of enhanced post-hire training programs, and respect the specific skills of international students.

  2. 36.

    Implement autumn enrollment at universities to attract high-caliber foreign students.

  3. 37.

    Urgently create a framework for accepting 150,000 foreign workers annually. Aim for a 5% population ratio of overseas talent by 2050. If 150,000 overseas workers are accepted every year from 2015, this will become 5.25 million people by 2050, or approximately 5% of the total estimated population of 97 million. (The proportion of foreign-born citizens within the total population is 15.5% in Sweden and 11.9% in France.)

  4. 38.

    Increase tourism from overseas, creating a situation where there always are many foreign workers in Japan. Being an “open state” would become the norm for Japan, and would also bring economic benefits equal to the annual consumption of one million Japanese residents.Footnote 8

11.2 Creating a Policy Environment

  1. 39.

    Demographic policy is a long-term national project. It requires the formation of sustained political will and a broad national consensus.

  2. 40.

    Create a “Next Generation Ministry ”

(The population problem has a depth and range that cannot be covered by a single Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). Nor can a coordinating body like the Cabinet Office cope alone. It would be better to create an administrative organization that oversees the entire population problem with legislative, budgetary, planning and analytical functions. The Democratic Party of Japan once advocated the establishment of a “Child and Family Ministry.” However, the ministry proposed here would be comprehensively responsible for population movement related to the social mobility and relocation policies ( national land policy is also relevant), rather than limited to marriage-related increases in population, birth and childcare support policy. In addition, a specialized demographic research and analytical institution should also be housed in this ministry comparable to the National Population Institute of France, which was founded in 1945.)

  1. 41.

    Establish the “One Hundred Year Demographic Research Council,” reporting directly to the prime minister, to advise on and monitor demographic policy.

(Changes in government are likely to become the norm in the future. If so, it will be necessary to create a policy coordination mechanism between the ruling and opposition parties to avoid swings in population policy with each change of government and to coordinate national preparedness and a consensus on population policy . As a mechanism to guarantee this, a bipartisan National Congress would be established consisting of 13 people, a chair along with six men and six women. One member of each gender should represent each generation by decadefrom those in their twenties to those in their seventies. The Research Council would be composed of experts from the National Assembly, the government and the private sector . It would monitor, examine and make recommendations concerning the government’s implementation of demographic policy every five years. The Council would run for a century. Each member’s term of office would be ten years. The baton would be passed every ten years; watching, giving orders, supporting to see the effects of population policy ascending in a hundred-year long policy marathon.)

  1. 42.

    Government updating of an Internet “Population Notebook” and “Population Clock” indicating the current status of Japan’s population on a daily basis.

(A national discussion on population policy is not possible without the provision of government data. To avoid repeating the mistakes of the MHLW’s independent prediction of a third baby boom, demographic data should be widely published in order to contribute to research by private think tanks and academic researchers. Information disclosure also includes data related to life infrastructure not only demographic data itself. For example, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) should publicize the date on the per capita cost of road maintenance, because this is essential when considering rationalization, restructuring and regional alliances for life infrastructure due to a falling population.)

  1. 43.

    Establish an automatic mechanism for correcting disparities in the one-vote system.

(To ensure that Japan does not head in the direction of a “tyranny by majority” in a silver democracy , one-vote disparities that are structured around regions with many elderly voters should be corrected.)