As Japan's population rapidly grows older, caring for ailing elderly relatives is becoming a serious issue for many people. When people develop conditions that result in them requiring nursing care, their family members cannot predict how long they will have to look after them. The burden may force them to quit working and in the worst case, it might force them into destitution.

It is estimated that about 100,000 people quit their jobs each year to care for ailing relatives. Among the new goals of his economic policies, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set a target of reducing the number of such workers to zero by the early 2020s. In a related move, the Labor Policy Council of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry proposed a set of measures last month designed to help people keep their jobs while caring for ailing family members or raising children. On the basis of these proposals, the government has taken budgetary measures and plans to submit amendments of relevant laws to the Diet this legislative session.

While the proposed steps represent an improvement over current practices, they still provide only the barest minimum support. Importantly, the council pointed out that the burden of providing nursing care for the elderly must be shouldered not only by families but also by society as a whole. Businesses and labor organizations should make further efforts to beef up support for workers caring for relatives.