National

Japan should to take lead on aging issue: British expert

by Noriyuki Suzuki

Kyodo

As the world’s most aged society, Japan can play a leading role in advising other countries facing a similar demographic challenge in the future, according to a British professor sitting on a new government panel on human resources.

Lynda Gratton, a professor of management practice at London Business School, said Japan needs to aim at boosting the participation of women and people over the age of 60 in the workforce through its economic policies.

“Japan might be the first society to age. But every single country in the world will go through the same process that Japan has gone through,” Gratton said in an interview Tuesday.

“You have an aging society and a low birthrate, so people are looking to see how Japan will deal with that,” she added.

Gratton is part of a 13 member-government panel launched this week to discuss how to make better use of human resources for Japan’s long-term growth.

Gratton said Japan is “behind the curve” on female participation, adding that concern about children not being cared for properly is one reason women choose to stay home.

In Japan, the number of children on public day care waiting lists rose in 2017 for the third straight year, forcing many parents to extend child care leave for lack of other solutions.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been seeking to encourage more women to join the workforce even though it has pushed back its goal of eliminating waiting lists for nursery schools by a few years to fiscal 2020.

The new panel, which also focuses on education, has been tasked with discussing topics such as making education and day care services for preschoolers free and reducing the financial burden of going to college.

Gratton backed the idea of investing in the education of children, calling it a “wise” move. Still, the challenges facing Japan are manifold. Securing funding is expected to be difficult, given its poor fiscal state, and it must also rein in swelling social security expenditures.

Gratton, who wrote “The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity,” said a country tends to use more financial resources for health care and pensions to address the aging of its population.

As people live longer and healthier than before, she argues that they should be encouraged to carry on working and learning through different stages of life.

“When countries change, they change because individuals change. People often look at government policy as the major process of change, but in a democracy it’s often individual citizens who decide to change,” the professor said.

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