Japan is on the brink of collapse due to the “near zero” birthrates in the country, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned on Monday.
“In thinking of the sustainability and inclusiveness of our nation’s economy and society, we place child-rearing support as our most important policy,” Kishida said in a speech during the opening day of a 150-day ordinary Diet session.
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Nikkei.com reports: His remarks on child-rearing support, one of the core elements in his 45-minute speech, came amid news that the country’s new births last year fell below 800,000 for the first time on record. Japan’s total population as of Jan. 1 was estimated at 124.77 million, down 0.43% from a year earlier — 29% of them were 65 years old or over, while 11.6% were aged 0-14.
Like in other Asian nations such as South Korea, fewer births means that Japan’s labor force is likely to continue shrinking, putting pressure on a social security system that has to support a graying population.
But the prime minister was short on specifics. Having earlier proposed three key platforms — economic support, childcare services and working style reform — Kishida said he would present an outline by June for a future doubling of the childcare budget.
“I would like to implement unprecedented countermeasures to [halt] the falling birthrate to allow everyone to participate in child-rearing regardless of age or gender,” he said, adding that he would “thoroughly” listen to the voices of parents, young people and childcare service providers.
Another focus of this parliamentary session will be how Japan pays for a planned increase in defense spending.
Kishida said that Japan will need an additional 4 trillion yen (about $30 billion) per year from fiscal 2027 for its military budget, and the government will seek to secure about three-fourths of that from fiscal reforms.
Kishida pledged that Japan will lead responses to global issues such as the Russia-Ukraine war and climate change as it assumes the presidency of the Group of Seven this year.
“To cooperate as the entire international society in addressing the multiple issues the world faces, the G-7 will unite and strengthen engagement with the so-called Global South,” he said, using the term describing emerging countries.
With respect to China, Kishida said Japan will forge “a constructive and stable relationship” with the country through the efforts of both sides.
Kishida also stressed that Japan would support startups to catalyze innovation, such as the introduction of a new credit system that enables entrepreneurs to raise funds more easily, and an immigration program to lure global talent.
“We will arrange an environment where foreign talent can participate actively, such as by creating a system for accepting highly-skilled workers,” he said.
Kishida’s approval ratings remain low, with surveys showing public discontent with his defense policies, rising prices and politicians’ links to the problematic Unification Church.
A Nikkei-TV Tokyo poll in December showed 35% support for his cabinet, the lowest level since he took office in 2021.
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