National

Abe vows to improve Japan's social welfare as population grays

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Friday to step up efforts to reform social security as Japan faces a multitude of challenges stemming from its rapidly graying population and low birthrate.

“Reform toward social security for all generations is the biggest challenge,” Abe said at the first meeting of a government panel tasked with dealing with the issues. “We will consider sustainable reforms for the entire social security system.”

Abe instructed his Cabinet members, including Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of social security reform, to come up with concrete measures.

A major topic will be how to encourage the elderly to work longer and continue to pay taxes.

The plans under consideration include encouraging companies to hire those who wish to work until they are 70 and scaling back or abolishing a system that reduces the pensions of people who still earn at a certain income level.

The nation’s social welfare expenses, including public pensions and medical care, are projected to skyrocket from 2022, when people in the postwar baby boomer generation will turn 75 or older.

The 16-member council involving six ministers, business executives and academics will compile an interim report by the end of the year and the final edition in the summer next year.

Private-sector members include Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of Keidanren, the country’s biggest business lobby; former internal affairs minister Hiroya Masuda; and Atsushi Seike, former president of Keio University and a labor economist.

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