What Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has dubbed the "new three arrows" of his trademark economic policies are in fact targets raised without readying the arrows — the means to achieve them. Along with the vow to achieve a robust economy with a target of boosting Japan's gross domestic product to ¥600 trillion and beef up child-rearing support to increase the nation's total fertility rate from 1.42 last year to 1.8 by the early 2020s, Abe has said his administration would reduce the number of people leaving their jobs to care for their ailing family members to zero by enhancing social security programs.

People leaving jobs in large numbers to care for their relatives is indeed a serious problem that needs to be addressed. It not only affects the livelihood of the people who have to quit work but also threatens to deplete the nation's labor force at a time when its working-age population is rapidly falling. The target needs to be backed up with specific policy measures, although it's viewed that the goal will be hard to achieve by merely increasing the number of nursing care facilities.

Roughly 440,000 people are estimated to have left their jobs between 2007 and 2012 to care for their ill or incapacitated parents and other relatives — with workers in their 40s and 50s accounting for a majority of such people, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. The number is increasing and hit 100,000 during the year to September 2012. The proportion of women is high among these people, but the number of men quitting their jobs for such reasons has also reportedly been rising in recent years, as has the number of younger workers. If the people who decide to permanently retire when they reach their companies' mandatory retirement age instead of seeking new work so they can care for ailing relatives are included, the number is even higher.