National / Politics

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike pledges better child care as capital eyes population peak

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Tuesday pledged greater support in child and nursing care to address growing social needs as the nation seeks to deal with its shrinking and graying population.

Koike, in an interview with The Japan Times, also said she will do more to improve the capital’s living environment to improve Tokyo’s status as a global hub.

“In 2025, five years after the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the population is projected to peak, and the baby-boomer generation will reach 75 years of age or more, and we will witness a rapidly aging society,” Koike said. “Tokyo is also seeing an exceptionally low fertility rate, which is why I want to focus on people’s needs.”

Koike said she is planning to offer financial support for working families and parents using baby-sitting services.

“I don’t want women to only focus on child-rearing but to utilize their skills to benefit society,” she said.

Koike also said she is planning to place more focus on innovative solutions using information and communication technologies to tackle a nursing shortage while increasing the number of nursing care facilities.

With the upcoming Rugby World Cup in 2019 and Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020 in mind, Koike also wants to use technological innovation to boost Tokyo’s standing as a global city for its international community and tourists alike.

“We’re working to make Tokyo a more livable place,” she said of the government’s efforts to improve medical and taxi services by incorporating technology to respond to the needs of visitors and residents of different backgrounds.

She added she was hoping to lure more foreign talent to the city.

With an aim to help Tokyo grow as a global hub, Koike also wants to focus on English education.

“Japan lacks English fluency,” she said, stressing the need to improve English education and bridge the gap between theory and practice. To address the problem, the metro government plans to establish Tokyo Global Gateway, an English-speaking environment where students — from preschool through high school — will be exposed to spoken English surrounded by native speakers, Koike said.

“Is there any other country with so many English language schools, textbooks and reference books, with such a well-established language learning environment, which has such a low level of English proficiency as Japan?” she asked, stressing Tokyo’s global aims. “(English) should become the core tool. … Many topics are discussed in Japan but such information is mainly passed in Japanese. It’s important to communicate it globally.”