APDA The Asian Population and Development AssociationAPDA The Asian Population and Development Association

INTERVIEW

Japan should aim to engage in nation building and promote a major political reform based on high ideals and from a broad, long-term perspective.

Member of the House of Representatives Hon. Shinsuke Okuno https://www.okunoshinsuke.jp/

The world’s population issues, around the time JPFP was established, mainly focused on how economic development and economic assistance could support the growing population and contributed to fulfilling discussions. Population issues, however, are characterized not only by population growth, but also by population decline, and are attributed to diverse aspects around the world, which also need to be addressed. This requires discussions in a broader context, in addition to those on how to strike a balance between population and economy.

As the elderly population has grown in Japan, various policies for the elderly have been adopted. In contrast, we failed to provide sufficient attention to women, children, the disabled, and non-Japanese citizens living in Japan. Partly due to a delay in adopting digital technology, effective policies have not been implemented in a timely manner, causing economic inequality to continue to widen.

Also, some issues related to the Japanese-style employment practices, such as hiring new recruits straight out of school, seniority-based wages, and division of roles between men who work and women who do household chores, have come to the fore. It is important to have a system that does not discriminate against people based on age or sex in terms of employment opportunity and wages. When I was a company CEO twenty years ago, we were one of the first companies to successfully introduce a hiring system based on job descriptions, ensuring that people willing to work and people with skills would be entitled to equal job opportunities regardless of age or gender.

Even today, however, women account for a higher share of non-regular workers in the service sector, and under the coronavirus pandemic, an increasing number of women have become unemployed or have been paid substantially less. Measures to support such women are urgently needed.

Child poverty is another major issue. Economic assistance is insufficient for families experiencing economic hardships, especially households with many children and single-parent households, while, on the contrary, it is observed that a large amount of edible food is being discarded. Progress is slow in improving working conditions for non-Japanese people including refugees and in providing employment assistance to disabled persons. These are major political issues.

Turning our attention to China, as measures to counter its population growth, the country is strengthening its hegemony, expanding its territory and cracking down on ethnic minorities living in autonomous regions by excluding ethnic minorities and promoting migration of Han Chinese into the regions. Furthermore, in its assistance to developing countries, China has been lending money beyond the borrowing countries’ ability to repay and causing various problems. It faces difficult choices to address its imminent population decline and super-aged society.

Japan should aim to engage in nation building and promote a major political reform based on high ideals and from a broad, long-term perspective. The promise of the SDGs is to “create a society in which no one is left behind”. In line with this, as Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Research Commission on the Judiciary System, I worked on compiling the commission’s “Recommendations 2021”, which detailed basic legislation and policies that are needed to provide necessary support.

We need to continue to give much thought to policies and systems that enable everyone to live a happy life and that leave no one behind.

Interviewed in July 2021

※The titles shown are those held at the time of interview.

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