The ruling and opposition parties must discuss Japan’s future vision from a broader perspective.
An ordinary Diet session has opened. In his policy speeches before the Diet, the first of its kind in the Reiwa era, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the government will “seek to promote major reforms affecting the shape of the nation, including the social security system.”
The greatest problem is how to respond to changes in the nation’s demographic structure. In 2025, all members of the baby-boom generation will be 75 or older, raising concerns about a large increase in medical expenses. Through 2040, the working-age population will likely continue to sharply decline.
Enabling future generations to benefit from social security will require policy measures aimed at enhancing the system’s durability. Given this, it is indispensable to facilitate a work environment friendly to elderly people and women.
It is also important to improve and expand support for childbearing and child rearing, thereby boosting the seriously low birthrate.
Reforms should not be put off but carried out resolutely, based on a long-term perspective. Politics must fulfill its responsibility in this respect.
The government is set to submit social security reform-related bills to the Diet. Measures include encouraging short-term workers to join the employees’ pension system, so their anxiety about old age will be alleviated. In the field of employment, the bills seek to facilitate a system in which corporations will be urged to secure opportunities for employees to work until the age of 70, thereby enabling highly motivated elderly people to work for a long time.
The legislation has shown a course of action to be taken with respect to medical costs incurred by people aged 75 or older, requiring them to cover 20 percent of such expenses out of their own pockets if they have a certain level of income.
How should a society where people can live without anxiety be built? The question should be debated from various viewpoints in the Diet, to look for prescriptions for that objective.
To maintain our society’s vitality, it is indispensable to improve the substance of policy measures aimed at achieving economic growth.
In his speech, the prime minister said the government will work to promote a fourth industrial revolution based on advances in science and technology. He indicated his intention of preferentially allocating funds to young researchers while also supporting the progress of communications technology.
The prime minister has good reason to aim at reinforcing the government’s growth strategy and enhancing productivity. However, the details of his specific policies, which seem appealing to all people concerned, lack novelty. The measures need to be narrowed down, and budgetary appropriations and capable personnel should be boldly provided. He should adhere to an aggressive stance in that endeavor.
Regarding amendments to the Constitution, the prime minister said: “What kind of nation will we seek to build? Isn’t it an obligation for Diet members to present proposals [for that goal]?”
This indicated his view that a draft for constitutional revisions should be considered without delay.
The Liberal Democratic Party has already shown a four-item draft for revisions to provisions, such as adding clear legal grounds for the Self-Defense Forces. The matter has reached a stage in which the Diet should put together a draft of amendments as the legislative branch of government, based on assertions made by each party.
There should be no overlooking the current situation in which debates on the Constitution itself remain stagnant due to delays in discussions on a bill to revise the National Referendum Law. The ruling and opposition parties need to be frank with each other and reinvigorate the Commission on the Constitution in each chamber of the Diet.
— This article appeared in the print version of The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 21, 2020.