National / Politics

Abe calls for shift of social security benefits to working generation

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed willingness to shift social security benefits — currently aimed primarily at retirees — to the working generation in a move toward a system for “all generations.”

In an address to investors at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, Abe said his government will enhance child care and nursing care services to allow the working generation to balance jobs with family responsibilities.

Abe called for the redirection of social security benefits to the working generation “to a greater degree.”

With Abe reportedly planning to dissolve the House of Representatives during the extraordinary Diet session to be convened on Monday, leading to a general election, he is expected to promote the policy during the upcoming campaign.

Specifically, Abe said the government should provide free preschool education and create an environment in which people find it easier to raise children.

Abe, who leads the ruling coalition of his Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, also pledged to make higher education effectively free for children from low-income households.

Abe believes such measures will encourage more young people to marry and have children, resulting in a reversal of the nation’s falling birthrate.

“Social security that is oriented to all generations will also serve as a brake on Japan’s population decline,” he said.

Abe acknowledged that “a substantial amount of financial resources” will be required for the plan to work.

“However, in order to carve out Japan’s future, I will put forth a solution without avoiding this issue,” he said. “I am firmly determined to do so.”

Abe did not say how he will pay for these initiatives. But he appears to be considering allocating part of the proceeds from a planned consumption tax hike in October 2019.

The government will raise the tax to 10 percent from 8 percent to cover ballooning medical, pension and other social security expenditures related to the aging population.

“We will raise the potential growth rate even in the midst of a decreasing population and simultaneously take steps to properly address the issue of a falling population itself,” Abe said.

“To make this a reality, I have been holding high the two banners of a ‘productivity revolution’ and a ‘human resources development revolution,’ and I am determined to make all-out efforts from here on out toward achieving them both,” he said.