Welfare minister Chikara Sakaguchi said Tuesday that the nation’s workforce will have to shoulder higher welfare costs in light of Japan’s declining birthrate and its graying society, while the aged will also need to share these burdens.

Sakaguchi issued these remarks in a 2002 white paper on health, labor and welfare approved at a Cabinet meeting the same day.

The white paper states that many young people are concerned that the public pension system will collapse before they reach retirement age.

It accordingly calls for the establishment of a fair system for all generations upon its revision in 2004.

It also advocates drastic revisions to the medical insurance system, whose financial resources are severely strained because of the soaring costs of medical care for the aged.

The white paper also urges the government to help baby boomers, most of whom are now in their early 50s, to improve their career skills amid the collapse of the seniority-based pay and lifetime employment systems that had been the tradition at Japanese firms.

The paper highlights a widening gap in living standards between people in their 30s and 40s who are raising children, and those in their late 40s and 50s who have generally finished paying school fees.

Individuals in their 60s or older have virtually the same standard of living as the working population, thanks to the public pension system, it says.

The white paper also advocates improving nursing care for the senile elderly and the quality of care managers.

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