I wish everyone a very happy new year.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration.
“With nobler desires, greater earnestness and wider sympathy not limited to just a few … the weakest of us may attain success.”
These are the words of Umeko Tsuda, who at the young age of six accompanied the Iwakura diplomatic mission that visited the United States and Europe in the early years of the Meiji era. Inspired by US society, in which men and women alike could utilize their individual capabilities, Tsuda founded an institution of higher education for women upon her return to Japan. She devoted her life to bringing the potential held by Japanese women into bloom.
One hundred fifty years ago, a wave of colonial rule was surging into Asia, and the building of a new nation by Meiji-era Japan had its start right alongside that major sense of urgency.
To overcome this precarious situation, which should truly be called a national crisis, Japan pressed forward with modernization in a single stroke. What served as the driving force for this was each individual Japanese. The class system that had been in place was abandoned and all Japanese were emancipated from the systems and conventions that had existed until then. It was by bringing together the entire spectrum of capabilities found among the Japanese people that Japan maintained its independence.
Japan now once again faces a critical situation that should truly be called a national crisis: our dwindling birth rate alongside our aging society.
Six years ago, Japan was awash in pessimism towards the future. “With a declining population, Japan is no longer able to grow.”
However through Abenomics over the past five years, nominal GDP has grown by more than 11 percent to reach a record high. Even as our working-age population declined by 3.90 million, employment increased by 1.85 million. The percentage of women in the workforce now surpasses that of the US for all age groups over age 25.
The ratio of active job openings to applicants for positions exceeds 1 in all 47 prefectures and the warm winds of economic recovery are now reaching Japan’s local areas as well. We are now accomplishing things we were unable to achieve even during our period of rapid economic growth.
The future can be changed.
I am convinced that if we succeed in creating a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged, with all people, whether male or female, young or old, those with disabilities or intractable illnesses, or those who have failed before, able to demonstrate their abilities to the greatest possible extent, then Japan will still be able to enjoy robust growth.
We can change the future with our own hands.
Everything depends on the aspirations and eagerness of us, the Japanese people. It all depends on whether or not we believe that we can change the future and are able to take action, as our ancestors did 150 years ago.
We will invest boldly in children’s futures. We will take on the unease people feel over childrearing and nursing care by dramatically reforming the social security system into one that is oriented to all generations. We will build a society that provides opportunities for all people, no matter their age, to brush up their skills and take on new challenges.
We will secure the lives and peaceful daily lives of the Japanese people under any circumstances as we advance resolute diplomacy.
Upon receiving the support of the public in the general election last year, we succeeded in taking a major step forward towards building a new nation that looks steadily at the future.
This year is the year of putting our plans into execution. We will transition the policies we pledged during the 2017 general election into execution, one by one. Looking squarely ahead to 2020 and beyond, the Abe Cabinet is determined to press forward vigorously with reforms towards building a new nation, hand in hand with the Japanese people.
In closing, I ask the public for their further understanding and support, and I also send my heartfelt wishes for 2018 to be a marvelous year bringing joy and prosperity to one and all.
Prime Minister of Japan