Law regulating dance clubs should be revised to reflect current reality
Regulating dance classes under the Law Regulating Adult Entertainment Businesses can be considered off the mark. The law should be revised to reflect reality.
The Osaka District Court has acquitted the former operator of a dance club accused of running the establishment without permission in violation of the law, based on its judgment that “it cannot be said the operator allowed customers to engage in the kind of hedonistic dancing regulated by the Law Regulating Adult Entertainment Businesses.”
However, the court also rejected the claim by the defense counsel that “the law infringes on the freedom of business activity and is therefore unconstitutional,” concluding that “regulation is needed for the public benefit and is thus constitutional.”
We believe it is appropriate to acknowledge the rationality of controlling the excesses of sex entertainment businesses, while also clarifying the facts in individual cases involving dance clubs and other operations.
Some of the law’s stipulations are outdated because it regards all businesses related to dance as “adult entertainment” and regulates them in the same way.
Regulation of dance businesses was included when the law was enacted in 1948, just after the end of World War II. At that time, dance halls were considered hotbeds of prostitution.
Currently, the operation of dance businesses, including dance halls and classes that do not serve food or drinks, in principle requires permission from a public safety commission. Such businesses are prohibited from opening establishments close to residential areas, schools, hospitals and some other locations. Also, their business hours must end at midnight in principle, and they are off limits to people younger than 18.
Popularity of dancing rising
More people are enjoying dancing as a fitness or artistic activity, and ballroom dance is popular mainly among the elderly. Considering these circumstances, it may be advisable to scrap the regulation of dance halls and dance classes.
But dance clubs should remain subject to some regulation. They usually play reverberating music very loudly, triggering many complaints from neighbors because of the noise and vibrations. Furthermore, drug trade and violence are sometimes associated with dance clubs.
A suprapartisan group of about 60 Diet members, called the league of lawmakers promoting dance culture, is trying to submit a bill to revise the law during the current Diet session.
Among their proposals, the one most likely to be adopted is to abolish the regulation of dance halls and classes but continue to regulate the location of dance clubs, while allowing them to extend their business hours if they get permission.
A considerable number of dance clubs are deliberately operating without official permission because they would have a hard time attracting customers if they closed early. The bill under study by the lawmakers perhaps merits consideration, as it presents realistic controls.
At a subcommittee meeting of the government’s Council for Regulatory Reform, some members called for using dance clubs to attract tourists in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
What matters most is to create an environment for people to enjoy dancing in a wholesome manner.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 28, 2014)
Court considers hardship of caring for senile in lawsuit over rail death
Last week’s ruling by the Nagoya High Court posed a weighty question: How can we establish a system that will enable people to live at home after developing senile dementia?
The case, which was sent to the court on appeal, involves a suit filed by the Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) seeking compensation from the bereaved family of a man with senile dementia who died after being struck by a train−an accident the railway company claims caused damage because it delayed the train schedule. The high court ordered the man’s wife, who was caring for her husband at home, to pay compensation.
There have been a considerable number of cases in which elderly people with dementia have wandered away from their home and become involved in train accidents. The issue is something people providing nursing care for family members can relate to.
The accident occurred when the man wandered out and entered the train tracks after his wife had briefly dozed off.
In the first trial at the Nagoya District Court, the presiding judge said that the danger of the man being involved in an accident, if he went out, was predictable and that “the wife was at fault for neglecting her duty to constantly watch over him.”
The high court, on the other hand, ruled that such an accident had not been predictable. The court also rejected the claim that she was at fault for neglect, which constitutes illegal behavior, by taking into account the fact that the wife was trying hard to nurse him. But it still acknowledged her responsibility of paying compensation as the person obliged to supervise her husband since he could not be legally held accountable.
24-hour watch impossible
It is virtually impossible for family members to watch sufferers of senile dementia they care for around the clock. If family members are made to shoulder excessive burdens, more and more people will have second thoughts about caring for such patients at home.
The fact that the high court halved the amount of compensation the family has to pay in this case indicates it took into consideration the hardship of nursing care givers.
Furthermore, the high court pointed out a blunder on the part of JR Tokai, saying, “It can be presumed that the accident could have been prevented” if the railway company had locked an opening in a fence, from which the man is believed to have entered the tracks.
The court also said, “It is the social responsibility of public transportation entities to improve safety” by paying consideration to people unable to understand the danger of accidents. We hope all railway companies will take this point seriously.
At a time when the number of senile dementia patients has surged in recent years to 4.6 million, and there are long waiting lists to enter special nursing homes for the elderly, it is difficult to care for senile dementia sufferers at nursing facilities alone.
In 2012, about 9,500 went missing because of senile dementia, of which 359 people were later found dead. It is essential to expand and improve the system for supporting nursing care at home in addition to coming up with measures to prevent accidents involving elderly people who wander away.
The government, for its part, should establish around-the-clock visiting nursing care services as well as medical institutions that would dispatch a doctor to the home of a patient whose symptoms have worsened.
It is indispensable to involve community members in countermeasures. The city of Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, which sends e-mail alerts to citizens whenever a senile dementia sufferer goes missing, can be a good example for other local governments.
It will also be necessary to study the advisability of establishing an insurance system that would compensate railway companies for accidents involving senile persons.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 27, 2014)
EDITORIAL: Bullying cover-up casts doubts on the Defense Ministry’s moral integrity
A cover-up scandal concerning the 2004 suicide of a Maritime Self-Defense Force seaman has brought to the fore the Defense Ministry’s willingness to go to any length to keep embarrassing facts in the dark.
The ministry appears determined to sweep any inconvenient documents under the carpet through organization-wide efforts and relentlessly attack any whistle-blowers.
On April 23, the Tokyo High Court acknowledged the deliberate concealment of internal documents that showed the seaman of the MSDF destroyer Tachikaze was bullied by a senior officer.
The existence of the documents came to light only after a lieutenant commander exposed the cover-up by submitting a statement to the high court, saying the MSDF was hiding the documents.
If the lieutenant commander had not acted, the organization’s failure to stop the bullying would have never become known to the public.
Despite being an organization whose mission is to protect the lives of people, the ministry made every effort to obscure the truth in order to protect itself, without reflecting on the seriousness of the loss of a life.
The ministry clearly needs to do some soul-searching. It should carry out an immediate and exhaustive investigation into the case to find out who ordered the concealment of the documents and who knew the facts, and then publish the findings.
The concealed documents were the results of a survey covering all 190 crew members of the Tachikaze to see whether bullying was a factor in the seaman’s suicide. They also included records of comments made by crew members who knew what happened and were interviewed as part of the ministry’s in-house inquiry.
The victim’s family filed a freedom-of-information request for the survey results, but the MSDF denied their existence.
There is no way to have specific information held by an organization disclosed if the organization claims there is no such information.
The controversial state secrets protection law will come into force by the end of this year amid serious concerns about the disclosure situation in this country.
The law will make it even more likely that information inconvenient to the government will remain undisclosed to the public. This prospect is really distressing.
The only ray of hope in the whole depressing episode is the conscientious act of the lieutenant commander who prevented the scandal from being hushed up.
Revealing the existence of the evidence before the court of appeal was a courageous deed that jeopardized his position within the organization.
The government, however, criticized his remarks as untrustworthy during hearings of the high court.
There must be a considerable number of people within the MSDF who were actually privy to the cover-up. But no one but the lieutenant commander came forward to tell the truth.
The Defense Ministry even considered punishing the officer. That’s simply an outrageous response to his honorable act.
It is not the whistle-blower, but the people who tried to conceal the information who should be punished.
The ministry should promise not to treat the lieutenant commander unfairly.
Ten years have already passed since the seaman committed suicide. If the survey had been disclosed earlier, the trial would not have taken so long, and the lessons from the incident might have been used for the efforts to root out bullying within the SDF.
There is a winner and a loser for every trial. When the government is the defendant, however, it should not focus simply on winning the case.
The government, which exists to serve the public interest, is responsible for offering all evidence that can help clarify the truth during the trial.
For any public entity, the cause of social justice should be of more value than its own organization. The Defense Ministry needs to take this obvious principle to heart.
--The Asahi Shimbun, April 26
Will reviewing spousal tax deduction help boost role of women in society?
The government’s Tax Commission has started discussing a review of the tax deduction system for spouses, which is aimed at reducing the burden of income and resident taxes on taxpayers with spouses.
To help expand the role of women in society at a time when the working generation is shrinking due to the ongoing trend of a low birthrate and a rapidly aging population, a comprehensive range of reforms in many areas is required. Changes to the tax system alone will not be sufficient.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made helping women to play a more important role in society a key element of his economic growth strategy. “We should review the tax system, which restricts women’s employment,” said Abe, who has instructed relevant government bodies to reexamine the deduction system. We think this is a fair response to the changing times.
Under the current spousal tax deduction system, the main household income earner can deduct \380,000 from their annual taxable income if their spouse is a full-time homemaker, or works part-time and earns \1.03 million or less per year.
Many companies reduce their spousal allowance and other allowances paid to employees at the \1.03 million threshold. Consequently, housewives working part-time tend to arrange their working hours to ensure they do not earn more than \1.03 million.
If a wife earns more than \1.03 million but less than \1.41 million, her husband can still claim a special spousal deduction. However, it is a fact that the “\1.03 million wall” limits women's desire to work.
The spousal tax deduction was introduced in 1961. Its objective was to provide tax relief to typical households at the time, in which the husband went to work while the wife stayed at home to devote herself to housekeeping and raising children.
Today, however, more households have broken away from the traditional model, with both spouses in employment. There have also been major social shifts regarding the handling of household chores.
A long road ahead
It would be wrong, however, to simply assume that the revision of the spousal tax deduction system alone would be sufficient in allowing more women to find employment. There are a myriad of reasons why many women who want to work are unable to do so. Many full-time housewives are so tied up with child-rearing and caring for elderly parents that they find it very difficult to join the labor force.
In addition to the spousal tax deduction, the government must also consider how to resolve the other obstacles obstructing women from working. Pressing issues include eliminating long waiting lists for day care centers, expanding the nursing care insurance system and rectifying the customary practice of working long hours.
Some estimates suggest that abolishing the exemption would result in a tax increase of about \70,000 for a household with an annual income of \5 million. The government will also need to consider relief measures to ensure the additional burden on household budgets after the system review does not increase significantly.
If the consumption tax rate is raised to 10 percent in October 2015 as scheduled, the burden on family budgets will balloon even further. The government is considering cutting the corporate tax rate, but the move could fuel criticism that businesses are receiving preferential treatment while households are being slapped with higher taxes.
In campaign booklets containing the Liberal Democratic Party’s policies for the House of Representatives election in 2012 and last summer’s House of Councillors election, the ruling party declared it would retain the spousal tax deduction system. Many LDP members are reluctant to review the system, or are outright opposed to such discussions. One of the most vocal opponents is Finance Minister Taro Aso, who said, “We mustn’t do anything thoughtless.”
How can more employment opportunities be created for women? We hope the government and ruling parties will deepen discussions on this issue from a wide range of viewpoints.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 24, 2014)
EDITORIAL: Abe misses the point in disclosing minutes of Cabinet meetings
For the first time since Japan adopted the Cabinet system in 1885, the government on April 22 disclosed to the public the minutes of a Cabinet meeting and a following ministerial meeting, both held on April 1.
“This is a historic first step,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gloated over the disclosure. New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi called it an “epoch-making” attempt.
We welcome the information disclosure itself. However, the manner in which this was done was hardly satisfactory, and we definitely do not share the enthusiasm of Abe and Yamaguchi.
At the April 1 meeting, the Cabinet effectively lifted the nation’s self-imposed ban on weapons exports and replaced it with the new “three principles of defense equipment transfer.” The decision represented a major turning point in Japan’s post-World War II pacifist policy that was grounded in the spirit of the Constitution.
According to the minutes, however, the minsters in charge merely “expressed their resolve” to apply the new principles appropriately, while Abe was quoted as saying, “I think it is most important to explain the purpose of the new principles in a way the people can understand, and make efforts to gain their understanding.”
This meeting ended in only 12 minutes, and the entire transcript is written on four pages of A4-size paper. Is this the reality of a Cabinet meeting, which serves as the supreme government session for making final policy decisions? The sheer absence of substance is almost incredible.
Granted, it has often been said that Cabinet meetings are extremely formalized and that in-depth discussions rarely take place even at the more casual ministerial meetings that follow.
But if the disclosed minutes are an indication of how little the Cabinet ministers have to say about policies, then the fundamental question that arises is, “Where are the nation’s policy decisions really made?”
What makes the situation even more frustrating is that we have no means of verifying whether the disclosed minutes accurately reflect what was really discussed during the Cabinet meeting.
The disclosure is based on the Cabinet’s decision, and it is not a legal requirement.
In fact, the “minutes” are actually nothing more than notes taken by the deputy chief Cabinet secretary and other officials present at the meeting. As such, we have no idea exactly what standards are being followed in the compilation of the minutes.
The prime minister has said, “From the standpoint of information disclosure, it is desirable to swiftly make public the information under the current laws.” But Abe is missing the whole point.
The compilation and disclosure of minutes is not a “public service.” Article 1 of the law on management of public records and archives defines public records as “intellectual resources to be shared by the people in supporting the basis of sound democracy.” The purpose of this law is to keep records of who made the decisions and why, so that they can be examined by future generations.
So long as the government neglects its responsibility to history, there is no point whatsoever in disclosing information that cannot be verified, no matter how swiftly the government makes it public.
The public records management law needs to be revised so that not only Cabinet meetings and ministerial meetings but also all other meetings that affect vital policy decisions, such as meetings of the Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council, will be required to keep their minutes. The minutes should be disclosed to the public in principle after a certain number of years.
Only when such changes have been made can the prime minister rightfully say that a “historic first step” has been taken.
--The Asahi Shimbun, April 23
Chinese seizure of Japanese vessel undermines spirit of 1972 statement
The seizure of a Japanese ship is an unprecedented exercise of Chinese public authority against a private Japanese firm. The action will lead to a further deterioration in Japan-China relations, while the Xi administration has been stepping up pressure on Japan over history issues.
The Shanghai Maritime Court announced Saturday it had impounded a large vessel owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, which was berthed at a Zhejiang Province port, in connection with a lawsuit over a ship leasing contract dating back to 1936.
The Chinese judiciary is under the control of the Communist Party, so it is possible that the seizure reflects the will of the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration.
The lawsuit was filed in 1988 by two grandchildren of the founder of a Chinese shipping company, and calls for the payment of fees for two freighters leased to a predecessor of Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and additional compensation for the ships, which eventually sank.
A ruling on the case became final in December 2010, when an appellate court upheld a 2007 decision, ordering Mitsui to pay more than \2.9 billion.
The Chinese court impounded the ship, leased by Mitsui to a Chinese steelmaking company, arguing that Mitsui failed to comply with the order to settle unpaid bills and pay compensation.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the seizure had no connection with the issue of war reparations.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denounced the Chinese action as “extremely regrettable” and said the seizure “would undermine the spirit at the heart of the 1972 Japan-China joint statement that established the normalization of bilateral relations.”
We are inclined to agree.
In the 1972 joint statement, China agreed to renounce demands for war reparations from Japan. The Chinese side essentially put a lid on demands by Chinese citizens for war reparations.
Over the years, Japan has provided more than \3 trillion in loans to promote and sustain Chinese economic development, and Japan continues provision of grant assistance to poorer regions of China today. Japanese companies have made substantial contributions to the country through investment in and technological cooperation with China as well.
The Chinese government has not made sufficient efforts to spread awareness of these Japanese contributions in the country.
The Xi administration has been ratcheting up its anti-Japan propaganda campaign over historical perceptions since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid a visit to Yasukuni Shrine in December.
What prompted Chinese authorities to seize a Japanese ship more than three years after the court’s decision was finalized? Given its timing, it is possible to see the move as a ploy by Beijing to pressure Japan ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Tokyo.
Suga expressed concern over the Chinese action, saying that it “could intimidate Japanese firms” planning to expand business in China.
Amid declining Japanese investments in China, any increase in the perceived risk of Chinese investment will likely come as a blow not only to Japan, but also to China, whose economic growth has been slowing.
A succession of lawsuits filed by Chinese who claimed they or members of their families were forced to work at Japanese factories during the war have called for Japanese firms to pay compensation. In light of this most recent move, many fear further seizures of the assets of Japanese firms.
The Xi administration must reaffirm mutual benefit as the heart of Japan-China relations.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 22, 2014)
In-depth discussions needed over hiring of more foreign workers
With the shrinking of this country’s workforce as a result of the rapid graying of society and the chronically low birthrate, Japan now faces the major challenge of meeting the nation’s manpower needs to ensure its society remains vigorous.
Under the circumstances, the government has begun studying the effective use of foreign workers in such sectors as construction and nursing care services. The first issue to be taken up is significantly increasing the number of foreign workers in the construction industry.
With the sharp rise in demand for construction related to facilities for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, the industry is expected to face acute manpower shortages.
Regarding the plan for accepting technical trainees from developing countries−the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program−the government plans to extend the period of stay for trainees in this country to up to six years, from the current three years, if they work in the construction industry. The planned extension will be temporary, effective from fiscal 2015 until the opening of the Tokyo Olympics. The step appears to be a last-ditch, stopgap measure to cope with the extreme shortage of construction workers.
In regard to the government-backed foreign trainee program, a slew of instances involving violations of the Labor Standards Law have been reported, including nonpayment of wages. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry must bolster surveillance procedures to crack down on wrongful labor practices.
Labor shortages are also serious in the nursing care service sector. Due to the graying of society, the number of nursing care workers across the country should be increased by 1 million by 2025, according to a government estimate.
However, the foreign nursing care workers accepted by this country have been strictly limited to people from such countries as Indonesia who come to Japan with the aim of acquiring qualifications as certified welfare workers under economic partnership agreements between Japan and these countries. The number of people who passed certification examinations totaled about 240 since the start of the program in fiscal 2008, far short of making up for the labor shortage.
Boost working conditions
Without opening the door wider for foreigners with vocational skills, the future rise in demand for labor can never be met. The government should study the feasibility of adopting a new vocational certification examination system.
It is also essential for the government to help foreigners who wish to work here as nursing care workers to improve their Japanese-language capabilities, as communication in Japanese is indispensable in the field.
One major factor behind the labor shortages in the construction and nursing care sectors may be because young Japanese who find employment in these businesses tend to quit their jobs very soon. This is mainly because wages in these sectors are lower than in other industries, making young workers worried about making long-term plans for the future.
As long as companies remain dependent on cheap labor from overseas, wage levels of these firms are bound to remain static, and as a result they will continue to be unable to secure sufficient workers. It is vitally important for them to improve working conditions for Japanese workers, such as by introducing a regular wage raise system and a framework conducive to enhancing their vocational careers.
The government has hammered out a policy of encouraging women and the elderly to find employment. In sectors where there is still a labor shortage despite this policy, the government must come up with steps to make better use of labor from abroad.
If foreign workers can be employed to do housework, the ratio of women joining the nation’s workforce will increase.
There are now about 700,000 foreign workers in the country. Considering the possibility of cultural friction between foreign workers and Japanese and the impact on the nation’s public security, foreign workers should not be brought into the country in a haphazard manner.
How should foreign workers be brought into this country and how should they be utilized? The time is ripe for the government and private sector to discuss these matters extensively.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 21, 2014)
EDITORIAL: Don’t miss the window of opportunity opening for Japan-China thaw
There have been some tentative signs of a thaw in the frosty relationship between Japan and China.
Japan and China are at loggerheads over a slew of thorny issues both in the past and at present. That’s exactly why it is so important for the two countries to repair their ties so that they can have a normal diplomatic dialogue.
Some notable exchanges have taken place recently between the two countries.
It has been revealed that Hu Deping, a Chinese pro-Japan advocate with close ties to President Xi Jinping, secretly met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo earlier this month.
Yohei Kono, the former Lower House speaker, met with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang on April 15 in Beijing. During the meeting, Wang criticized Abe but nevertheless said, “We hope the Japanese business community will make efforts to overcome the difficulties (in the bilateral relationship) and contribute to improving the relationship.”
In addition, Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe will visit Beijing from April 24 to 26. It is the first time in as many as 18 years that the chief of the Tokyo metropolitan government has been formally invited to visit Beijing, which has a friendship city agreement with the Japanese capital. China’s Foreign Ministry has issued a statement welcoming Masuzoe’s visit.
The two countries, which are such close neighbors, should not remain estranged as they are now. If both sides are seeking to figure out a way to mend ties, that’s good news.
Some efforts were also made to improve the situation last year.
Even after China made a provocative move to suddenly establish an air defense identification zone in areas over the East China Sea including the disputed Senkaku Islands, diplomats from Tokyo and Beijing continued their exchanges to turn around bilateral ties.
But Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine the following month caused bilateral exchanges to come to a halt.
The Xi administration, which has been ratcheting up criticism of Japan over history-related issues, is unwilling to make an overt move to seek reconciliation with Tokyo unless Abe makes a concession.
Beijing has probably decided to limit its efforts to patch up the ties to economic and private-sector exchanges while taking a wait-and-see approach toward Abe.
But issues concerning views about history are not the only obstacles to improvement of the bilateral relations.
For many years, China has been dangerously expanding its military capacity in its efforts to enhance its influence in surrounding areas. China’s aggressive military buildup and increasingly assertive behavior have created tension in neighboring areas including Japan.
Dialogue between the defense officials of both countries is necessary for preventing unnecessary clashes.
The establishment of a system to ensure safety in actions in the sky and the sea taken by the two countries in states of alert would help improve the security environment in the region.
On the economic front, Japan and China have a strong complementary relationship. China still needs Japanese technologies, while Japan needs China’s market and labor.
Tokyo and Beijing should start talks to enhance their bilateral economic relations including efforts to accelerate the negotiations for a three-way free trade agreement among Japan, China and South Korea.
Concerns about China’s rapidly growing military power are widely shared by Pacific Rim countries.
But many countries in the region, including the United States, have been maintaining relations with China based on active bilateral talks on various issues instead of cutting off dialogue between the leaders.
Japan and China once agreed to promote mutually beneficial strategic relations between them. That means both sides should try to find a way to promote coexistence and co-prosperity even if there are serious disputes and disagreements.
--The Asahi Shimbun, April 20
Measures urgently needed to cope with, reduce number of elderly living alone
As the people born during the postwar baby boom have begun entering the later stages of their lives, one out of every four people in Japan is now aged 65 or older.
Working out measures to address the challenges posed by the nation’s rapid aging−a situation without parallel in the rest of the world−is an unmistakably urgent matter.
The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry released population estimates as of Oct. 1, 2013, in which people aged 65 and over comprised more than 25 percent of the population for the first time. Nearly 31.9 million had celebrated their 65th birthday.
Japan’s population has contracted for a third straight year, and the working-age population−people aged from 15 to 64−has fallen below 80 million for the first time in 32 years.
The aging of society brings with it ballooning social security costs, including expenditures for medical and nursing care. As a result, the burden of maintaining the social security system has grown even heavier on a working generation that is shrinking in an alarming fashion.
Japan’s social security system, as it exists today, is hardly sustainable and threatens to undermine Japan’s social and economic vigor. The situation is grave indeed.
In 2025, as the baby-boom generation passes the age of 75, the number of people needing medical and nursing care will undoubtedly rise even higher.
But as the number of older people continues to swell, there are limits to the number of elderly that can be cared for at facilities for the aged and hospitals. Expenditures covered by the nursing care and health insurance systems are likely to increase, leading to a further rise in benefit payments.
The situation calls for arrangements for integrated nursing care and medical services to be provided in the home, allowing the elderly to live at home for as long as reasonably practical. The government must also back construction of new housing to accommodate older people, including those with lower incomes.
Build mutual aid framework
It is important that Japan also define a strategy for addressing the increasing numbers of older people living alone. According to projections by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, the number of such elderly people, which stood at 4.98 million in 2010, will rise to 7.62 million in 2035, an increase of about 50 percent.
Older people who receive no help from family are likely to face great difficulty living on their own if and when they encounter even minor physical or mental issues. Symptoms of dementia and other disorders also tend to be overlooked. Building neighborhood frameworks of mutual support to take the place of absent families is indispensable in coping with this situation.
Many noteworthy programs to keep an eye on elderly residents and provide them with places to interact with other people have been launched by nonprofit organizations and volunteers. We should encourage the further spread of such works.
The role played by local governments is crucial as well. One program by the government of Minato Ward, Tokyo, makes door-to-door visits to the homes of single elderly residents to offer appropriate administrative services, in an effort to better understand their living conditions. This program could be a useful model for other local governments.
We hope to see older people who are in good health and spirits take on volunteer and other activities for the benefit of their communities. Such contributions will add meaning to their lives, and at the same time reduce the likelihood that they will need nursing care services, thereby helping rein in social welfare expenditures for the nation as a whole.
There is a close link between the number of older people living alone and the increasing number of unmarried people. Many people within the growing ranks of low-wage nonregular employees are giving up on getting married.
This is why employment patterns are an important part of preventing further growth in the number of older people living alone−working conditions for nonregular workers should be improved and companies must be urged to expedite promotion of such workers to regular-employee status.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 18, 2014)
EDITORIAL: Abe administration's disturbing signs of 'Galapagos' syndrome
In his recent address to newly hired government employees, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe exhorted them to broaden their horizons, saying, “In this age of globalization, Galapagos officials who only know about Japan are worthless.”
That’s well said. But coming from the mouth of this leader, the words sound somewhat hollow. A number of irresponsible remarks recently made by some administration officials and close Abe aides have triggered concerns about the government’s field of vision. We cannot help but wonder if the vision is limited to an area far narrower than Japan: to things that are only convenient to the administration.
For instance, Hakubun Shimomura, the minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, said in a Diet session on March 26 that the so-called Murayama statement was not officially endorsed by a Cabinet decision. The statement was released in 1995 by Tomiichi Murayama, the prime minister at the time, expressing remorse and apologizing for Japan's wartime actions. Shimomura later corrected his comment, saying he had committed “a mistake of fact.”
It is startling that the education minister, a man known as a passionate advocate of teaching “correct history,” was so wrong about such a basic fact. The statement was indeed officially approved by a Cabinet decision.
When he was asked about the government’s definition of the right to collective self-defense during a Diet session on March 20, Ichiro Komatsu, director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, adamantly refused to respond, saying he didn’t want to give a wrong answer. “It would be very bad if I answer the question carelessly and am then criticized for correcting my statement later,” he said.
Seiichi Eto, a special adviser to Abe, indignantly reacted to a U.S. statement expressing disappointment at Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine last December with a post on a video-sharing site in which he said, “We are disappointed at the United States for saying it was disappointed.”
Yoshitaka Sakurada, a senior vice minister at the education ministry, attended a rally where people were calling for a revision of the 1993 statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologizing to the women who were forced to provide sex to wartime Japanese troops. At the meeting, Sakurada supported the call for revising the statement, saying: “I am a person who abhors the fabrication of facts. My feelings and thoughts are the same as yours.”
Similar remarks were also made by a top executive of Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK).
Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga have downplayed the implications of the various utterances by saying they were only “personal opinions.” But that doesn’t dilute the fallout from these controversial remarks.
The various comments by people close to Abe have alarmed the international community and fueled suspicions that these “personal opinions” actually reflect the prime minister’s true views and feelings. The situation is clearly damaging Japan’s national interests, the importance of which Abe likes to stress.
Abe himself is responsible for the situation since his visit to war-related Yasukuni Shrine triggered the controversial comments expressing “personal opinions.” Abe went “in a private capacity,” even though many people around him urged him not to go.
Abe’s renewed passion for pursuing a political agenda for the nation’s “departure from the postwar regime” has inspired his aides to join his crusade. As a result, it seems that they have lost their ability to make sensible judgments, causing the entire administration to lose its balance.
What is especially disturbing is that the individuals who have made these questionable remarks don’t seem to have an inkling of what made their remarks so controversial.
This is clear from a comment written by a secretary to Eto, a special adviser to Abe, in Eto’s blog. “Although Eto made the statement with pride for himself and his country, he has retracted it to avoid causing trouble to the Abe administration, which is pursuing such important causes as making an amendment to the Constitution.”
These officials have not offered any explanation about why and how their remarks were problematic. Nor have they taken responsibility for the controversies they provoked. Nor has the administration tried to hold them responsible for their questionable comments. This indulgent atmosphere appears to be breeding self-righteousness among administration officials and enhancing purely collusive relations among people around Abe.
We are deeply concerned about growing signs of the Galapagos syndrome coming from the Abe administration.
--The Asahi Shimbun, April 10