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Messages from Keidanren Executives September, 2017 What we must do now for a bright future of the children of Japan

Shuzo SUMI Vice Chair of the Board of Councillors, Keidanren
Chairman, Tokio Marine Holdings, Inc.

I don't think anyone would contest to the comment that "People are the most important asset to Japan, therefore it is crucial to protect and foster them." In order to produce talent who can work globally and spur innovation, it is imperative to maintain a solid demographic layer with a broad, high-quality education.

The children of Japan are expected to form a rich middle class in the future, but the sad truth today is that 1 out of 7 children are impoverished. If equal opportunity for education is being jeopardized, something must be done about it.

There are various proposals such as "education bonds" and "children's insurance," but in order to support the healthy growth of children who are the future of Japan, a nation-wide social structure is necessary that will support wholesome child-rearing of parents. For example, as a national minimum, can we not make childbirth and childcare fully free of charge? This will hopefully lead to alleviating the uncertain outlook which young adults may hold for the future, and encourage them to have families, consequently stemming the population decline as well.

Furthermore, assuming that a nation-wide effort is required to raise children who are the future of Japan, the most appropriate funding source would be tax which is collected widely from the Japanese population. We must first review the current social security benefits scheme which is oriented towards the elderly, in order to allocate more social security benefits to children. If that is not enough, we have no choice but to increase the financial burden of the Japanese people.

Decreasing birthrates and ageing will progress quickly. Overconcentration of the cities cannot be stopped. It is less than eight years before all the postwar Japanese baby-boomers are aged 75 or over. We must definitely avoid a society divided by generations and income disparities, as well as economic and regional inequalities.

If we can present a bright prospect for the children who are the future of Japan, and have thorough discussions and make valid explanations, I think that the Japanese people, regardless of age or gender, will express understanding, even to an increased financial burden. Is it not the role of the business community to advocate a difficult but necessary policy, bearing in mind the tendency for politics and public opinion to take the easier route?