The public should be engaged more actively in caring for the elderly and child-rearing in their communities by turning their work-oriented lives into family- and community-oriented ones, the labor and welfare ministry said in an annual report released Friday.

The report compiled by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is aimed at encouraging people to lead a fulfilling life by turning away from long working hours and by contributing to the communities to which they belong.

But pundits say the ministry is simply seeking to have the public bear a greater burden of social welfare to complement services the government cannot afford to provide in the face of mounting social services costs and an increase in the number of recipients.

The report cites some cases the ministry sees as embodying its vision, such as a firm in Kumamoto that pays full-time workers a lower salary in exchange for shorter work hours.

Another case cited is a project undertaken by a local shopping district in Tokyo where volunteers help the elderly with small daily tasks like replacing light bulbs.

These efforts will “create a new current that can be described as ‘a cycle of mutual support,’ thereby providing people with more fulfillment in their lives,” the report says.

Experts say it will be hard to make companies go along, and add the report’s focus on family may make it more difficult for women to work outside the home.

In light of a scandal involving local social insurance offices, the ministry added a chapter on measures to prevent a recurrence.

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