Speech on Growth Strategy by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Japan National Press Club
Friday, April 19, 2013
It was 213 years ago today, on the 19th of April (a leap month in the old lunar calendar), that a man set out on a journey from Edo. That man was Ino Tadataka, whom many of you know from his work creating the first map of Japan through surveying. Today is a day we should remember, as it was the day he set off to Hokkaido to make his first map.
He was 55 years of age. In an era when life expectancy was said to be 50 years, it was from the age of 50 that Ino Tadataka - who was already retired - studied astronomy and began surveying.
Over 17 years he walked some 40,000 km, which is also the distance around the earth. He undertook his surveying with the ultimate tenacity. It is said that the maps he completed this way were so accurate that even the Westerners that arrived at the end of the Edo Period were amazed.
No matter how difficult a challenge may seem, it is always possible to overcome it, provided you have a strong will never to give up. There is no such thing as "too late" to take action. The outstanding achievements of Ino Tadataka are an inspiration to us in the modern age.
(Nearly four months since the inauguration of this administration)
For almost four months since this administration was inaugurated right up to the present, we have been grappling on a daily basis with a mountainous number of national crises, including delayed reconstruction, prolonged deflation, education that is in a state of crisis, damaged Japanese diplomacy, and a series of provocations against our sovereignty. However, there are no "just do this and the problem will be solved" kinds of shortcuts for the government.
Just as Ino Tadataka created his maps traveling one step at a time, so too must we achieve results by accumulating decisions and executing them, one by one.
In the case of delayed reconstruction, we have created a structure under which the Reconstruction Agency stands at the fore and links directly with the disaster-affected areas. I myself have visited the disaster-stricken region together with Minister Nemoto each month to listen to the voices of the people there on the ground and provide answers one by one, modest as they are, such as revising procedures that have been hindering reconstruction.
I visited the United States in February and, through my summit meeting with President Obama, succeeded in sending to both the people in Japan and people around the world the message of the full restoration of the close Japan-U.S. alliance. I decided that Japan would participate in the negotiations for the TPP, taking account of that outcome. What happens next will depend on Japan's diplomatic capacity.
After having first visited three South East Asian countries with whom we share fundamental values, last month I visited Mongolia. This was a visit of the utmost significance in terms of fostering the future stability of East Asia. I plan to develop strategic national security diplomacy from a panoramic perspective of the world map.
At the same time, the national security environment surrounding Japan continues to be severe, including with North Korea repeatedly engaging in provocative statements and actions.
I am prepared to defend fully the lives and the security of the Japanese people no matter what it takes.
To begin with, we must make North Korea recognize that provocative actions will not result in any benefits for North Korea and will instead make the situation increasingly severe.
It is for this reason that, while each country unfailingly implements the sanctions resolved by the United Nations, Japan will act in cooperation with the United States, the Republic of Korea, China, and Russia to send a unified message from the international community for North Korea not to repeat its provocations.
In order to bring about the rebuilding of the Japanese economy, I have forcefully launched the three prongs of economic revival.
Realizing that a policy package altogether different from previous ones would be necessary, my administration compiled a joint statement with the Bank of Japan that boldly reviews the policy framework that has existed until now. We explicitly stated that we would work to achieve a 2 per cent price stability target. I newly appointed Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda and others, and on that basis, bold monetary policy has been implemented decisively.
With the passage of the supplementary budget, flexible fiscal policy is also now moving into the stage of execution.
In order to enable the fruits of these endeavors to reach the people as quickly as possible, I myself have made direct requests to industrial circles that they raise workers' pay by the greatest amount possible. The tax system also supports companies that return profits to their employees.
In this year's spring labor offensive, a number of companies decided to raise employees' remuneration, including statements that bonuses would be paid in full.
So how do you view things now compared to four months ago? Would you agree that the mood in society as a whole has become brighter?
In the Economy Watchers Survey conducted among typical workers, business sentiment reached its highest degree of confidence ever. Business sentiment among small and medium sized businesses is also expected to reach its highest level of confidence ever in the 21st century.
However, it would not do to be satisfied at this point. We must make these bright indications sustained and even stronger than they are now.
It is at last the turn of my Growth Strategy, the third of my three prongs for economic revival, to take the stage. Today I would like to utilize this opportunity to overview one part of it.
2. The Three Key Words of My Growth Strategy
I would like to start off by explaining the overall vision my Growth Strategy encompasses. The Strategy has three key words, namely "challenges" - actively taking on challenges - "openness" - openness to other countries - and "innovation."
(Taking on challenges)
We will bring out to the full extent the potential that lies dormant in our human resources, our capital, our land, and every other type of resource. We will also facilitate the shift of resources from areas of low productivity to those of high productivity. "Growth" is nothing other than the realization of these two efforts.
Once resources are distributed, there is a tendency for them to become fixed at existing industries. It is no easy matter to move them. We may safely consider this a "challenge."
Through the first of my three prongs of economic revival, we will provide the market with abundant capital. The second prong is the trigger to facilitate the application of that capital to growth areas. By supplying the market with risk money, public-private funds work to generate investment in growth industries.
In the runup to this Growth Strategy, we have been clearing out the clogs in the availability of capital that existed in the market. At long last, private sector investment is also beginning to swing into action. Companies' willingness to engage in capital investment has seen a sharp recovery since the end of 2012.
It is also critical that we activate human resources.
We will create a society that makes active use of superior human resources. That will boost the productivity of society as a whole.
Which of our human resources are the most underutilized at present? That would be "women."
"Women participating actively in society" is something that tends to be mentioned in the context of social policy. However, I see it quite differently. I view it as forming the central core of my Growth Policy.
I firmly believe that enabling women's latent high degree of ability to blossom fully will be a driving force that puts Japan, which has had the feeling of being caught in an impasse, on a growth track once more.
I will address concrete measures in more detail later in my speech.
As for young people, who will bear responsibility for the future of Japan, we must first of all have them expand their capabilities in one way after another.
I will also be discussing concrete measures towards this end later in my speech. But I believe that there will be no way to weather this era of international megacompetition without young people becoming "internationally competent human resources."
(Openness to other countries)
We cannot escape from international megacompetition. If that is the case, then the only way to approach this is to venture forth. This is "openness" - openness to other countries - which is the second key word within my Growth Strategy.
This is not something limited to the highly-skilled manufacturing industry at the present. We are now in an age in which everything, from food culture to medical systems, educational systems, and transportation and energy infrastructures, is bought and sold around the world.
For that reason, it is necessary for us to go beyond the conventional trade rules for goods and create rules for the new areas of intellectual property and investment and global standards.
This is precisely why Japan is proactively pushing forward with economic partnership negotiations with Asia and the Pacific, with Europe, and so on.
The economic order that the TPP - the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement - seeks to achieve will most certainly serve as a springboard for creating new rules for the entirety of the Asia-Pacific region. I swiftly made the decision for us to participate in negotiations in order for Japan to be at the very heart of this process.
Businesses related to infrastructure and systems fall under the control of the government in many countries. When all is said and done, this is an area in which summit-level diplomacy carries a lot of weight.
We will at long last launch our economic diplomacy.
In the near future I will be visiting Russia and the Middle East. The topmost figures in my administration engage in full-scale efforts to expand overseas markets across a wide spectrum of fields that includes food culture, energy, and medical systems.
In particular, Japan has an annual trade deficit of some 2 trillion yen in the area of medical treatment. That has expanded over the past five years by 800 billion yen. We forecast that domestic medical needs will increase rapidly, and if we do not venture forth, then conversely, our deficit in this area may expand still further.
Japan also enjoys areas of strength. For example, Japan is right at the leading edge globally in diagnostic imaging using CTs and MRIs. We also have world-leading technologies in the area of particle radiation used in treating cancer.
In emerging economics, disease trends are shifting from infectious diseases to lifestyle-related diseases such as cancer and strokes along with rising standards of living. This is where Japan's technological sophistication can shine.
In Russia, a "Japanese-style diagnostic imaging center" will open in Vladivostok in May. In addition, taking the opportunity of my upcoming trip to Russia, Japan and Russia are also moving forward in efforts to cooperate towards the construction of a particle radiation therapy facility.
In the Middle East as well, I hope to reach agreement during my subsequent visit to the Middle East on promoting the concept of a "Japan-UAE Advanced Medical Center" in Abu Dhabi in the UAE. This Center would be able to provide the most advanced particle radiation therapy anywhere in the world.
In order to achieve these goals, it is necessary to have the basis for expanding Japan's highly-developed medical technologies throughout the world. Next week, the government will take the lead in creating a new structure, in cooperation with more than twenty medical device manufacturers and more than fifty medical institutions. We will promote international medical cooperation as a new type of growth on the basis of this "Medical Excellence, Japan."
If it is to enjoy a high degree of competitiveness, Japan's healthcare industry has no choice other than to foster innovations one after another.
Innovations that create groundbreaking "value" and which can be called "a major encounter between the market and technologies" will not come about unless the public and private sectors act in cooperation in an integrated manner.
Under this approach, the national government first sets forth a clear image of "how society should be" that meets the needs in society and then, in order to bring that image into reality, generates new growth industries through the government and the private sector both concentrating their investments. It is not that the government targets certain industries.
This is nothing new. It is something we also did in years past. One example of this is the construction of the Tokaido Shinkansen - the Tokaido bullet train.
It was 1957 that discussions first arose on the possibility of a super express train that would travel the distance from Tokyo to Osaka in three hours. At that time, it took seven hours to travel between Tokyo and Osaka, even on express trains. Reducing that to less than half was a dream that everyone could share.
This was a challenge fraught with technological hurdles. However, the government committing to the goal of connecting the two cities in three hours resulted in various innovations coming about, from the streamlined vehicle bodies to reduce air resistance to the hydraulic springs that eliminate vibrations.
The aim was to launch operations before the Tokyo Olympics. This resulted in an enormous volume of demand related to building the carriages and so on, and from there, a great many peripheral industries came into being.
In addition, realizing the dream shared all around the world of "getting there faster" raised what had been "Japan's Shinkansen" to "the world's Shinkansen," and led to railroads becoming an export industry.
New demand and new industries come about by discerning an image of "how society should be" that everyone can take as a goal and then not giving up in working to realize it. And, if that image of the society we seek to achieve is also one sought by the rest of the world, then those technologies can certainly be exported around the world.
In the Growth Strategy that we will draw up from now, we will set forth the fields of good health and longevity, energy, infrastructure, and revitalization of local areas as aspects of "how society should be" and then examine what policies will be necessary to make them a reality.
3. Growth Industries to Be Created from a "Society of Good Health and Longevity"
Today I would like to introduce the strategy to bring about a "society of good health and longevity," which is a representative example among these aspects.
Conventional medicine has centered on the treatment of disease. Under this method, treatment is given after someone becomes sick. It is through this approach that Japan became the country with the longest average life expectancy anywhere in the world.
However, "healthy life expectancy" is also said to be six to eight years shorter than average life expectancy. There is a period before the natural life expectancy comes to an end when people suffer from illness or become bedridden.
I will aim to create a society that attaches importance to sustaining good health by making efforts to prevent sickness and the like, while still maintaining longevity.
"Good health" is a theme held in common the world over, as something sought by all. I am convinced that if we are able to build a "society of good health and longevity," it will spread from Japan to the rest of the world also.
(Regulatory and institutional reforms)
One key to this lies in regenerative medicine and innovative drug development. There is no question that Japan is the world leader in the use of iPS cells and other research in this field, as symbolized by Professor Shinya Yamanaka being awarded the Nobel Prize.
In order to further cultivate Japan's strengths in this research, I have decided that we will provide approximately 110 billion yen in research support over the next ten years to iPS cell research.
However, Japan has gotten a substantially late start in bringing research into practical application. If we compare approvals of regenerative medicine products, including those still under testing, we find that the United States has 97, Europe 62, and the ROK 45, while Japan has only six.
In order to advance vigorously the practical application and the industrialization of regenerative medicine, I intend to conduct a bold regulatory and institutional review.
For example, in regenerative medicine, in cases in which a doctor conducts medical treatment involving cultivating and transplanting a patient's cells, under the current system, that doctor must conduct the cultivation and the processing herself. There is no mechanism for commissioning the work to an outside entity.
The other day, I visited the research facilities of Tokyo Women's Medical University.
Through biomedical engineering cooperation conducted with the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Waseda University, the university is utilizing cell sheet technology and making advances in the development of automated machines for conducting large-scale cell cultivation. If this technology becomes established, it will be possible to have regenerative medicine treatments that are safer and lower-priced through outsourcing the work to the private sector rather than having the transplanting doctor himself conduct the cultivation.
At present, we are working to prepare a new bill that would make outsourcing possible, and I intend for it to be submitted to the current Diet session.
When making a heart muscle sheet or other regenerative medicine product, it is necessary to receive approval in accordance with the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. Regarding this area as well, in order to reduce drastically the time required for screening, we will submit to the current Diet session a draft revision of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law that will make possible the commercial availability even of products confirmed to be effective for only a small number of patients. By doing so we will foster an environment that facilitates practical application at an early time.
We will also conduct bold regulatory easing for medical devices through this bill. We will expedite the screening process by recognizing certifications granted by private sector third-party institutions, except for cardiac pacemakers and certain other devices.
Together with these revisions, we will work to relax requirements by shifting from a licensing system to a registration system for companies contracted to manufacture medical devices, thereby enabling small and medium enterprises and micro-enterprises with excellent manufacturing skills to advance into this field.
(A Japanese version of the National Institutes of Health)
When I served as Prime Minister previously, I came to resign my position due to ulcerative colitis, an intractable illness.
Five years ago, a revolutionary new drug emerged and I recovered, enabling me to once again take up the position of Prime Minister. However, the approval of this new drug was 25 years late here in Japan.
The period for screening an item for approval has been getting dramatically shorter. Instead, the problem is that it takes a long time between development and submitting the application for the screening to take place. The biggest reason is that the system for proceeding with collecting clinical data and undertaking clinical trials domestically is insufficient.
Even if one were to try to conduct a clinical trial at some university hospital, it would be impossible to get adequate data because the number of beds at any one institution is too limited. Even if one then tried to utilize beds at another institution, differences in how data are collected make it difficult for institutions to cooperate with one another. The result is that a sizable amount of time is required for development and the like.
Technological development in unexplored areas such as regenerative medicine runs a high risk of not bearing fruit, and thus private sector companies tend to hesitate to delve in these areas. For this reason, progress tends to be slower when embracing challenges in new fields.
There was a country that faced these issues in the 19th century. That country was the United States of America.
The spread of cholera was a concern in the late 19th century as a large number of immigrants flocked to the country. The national government was the main actor in creating research institutes to counter cholera, as there was no time to leave the response to the private sector. It is from these roots that the United States' National Institutes of Health (NIH) came to be born over time.
As a national project, the NIH not only conducts its own research but also integrates and consolidates the data from clinical studies and clinical trials performed both domestically and abroad, including those conducted by the private sector. The NIH also utilizes a structure by which all technologies, whether they be drugs, treatments, or devices, are mobilized in order to take the most efficient route for researching ways to counter the targeted disease.
This has resulted in the NIH achieving tremendous results in countering domestic diseases, including a 60 per cent reduction in heart disease over the past half-century. Moreover, the NIH currently encompasses 27 research Institutes and Centers in total, including a cancer research institute and an institute for allergies research, and employs 20,000 staff. It leads medical advances around the world.
In Japan as well, it will be necessary to have a structure that promotes a national project much like the United States' NIH in order to develop regenerative medicine and other types of the most advanced medical technologies as we work towards a "society of good health and longevity." We will create a system that can also be called the "Japanese version of the NIH."
We will create a unified foundation and integrate data from clinical studies and clinical trials performed both domestically and abroad, engaging pharmaceuticals manufacturers, medical devices manufacturers, and hospitals in an integrated manner.
I will lead the efforts to carve out a new horizon for the latest medical technologies, including regenerative medicine and innovative drug development, through a streamlined system from research to practical application in which the public and private sectors work together.
(Working to counter intractable illnesses)
The other day, I received a letter from a girl who graduated from elementary school this year. She was born with an intractable illness by which her small intestine fails to function and she has not had a typical meal since she was very young. She has had surgery eight times already.
Her letter closed with the following line, expressing her expectations for iPS cell research:
"If a treatment can be found, then the future will be extremely bright. And I would love to be able to eat anything I like."
It is also the responsibility and the role of politics to listen carefully and respond to wee voices such as hers, as she tries to live life with hope and a positive attitude.
In particular, as someone who recovered from an intractable illness to once again become Prime Minister, I have a responsibility that can also be called my "destiny," to advance policies that take into account the perspective of people suffering from intractable illnesses.
As soon as the "Japanese version of the NIH" is established, I wish to move straight into accelerating research on intractable illnesses as a national project. By doing so, I will work to create a society in which even people suffering from intractable illnesses at present can have hope for the future.
This is what a "society of good health and longevity" should be like. I will move forward in this endeavor as one of the pillars of my Growth Strategy that will lead to new industries.
4. A Growth Strategy That Enjoys Participation by All
Naturally, this will benefit more than just people suffering from intractable illnesses. My Growth Strategy involves creating a society in which all people can play an active role, as long as they have the desire to do so.
I would like people having this desire to participate more and more actively in society, including the elderly and the young, as well as people with disabilities or health issues. I will create a society in which people can make use of their abilities to take on challenges any number of times, rather than becoming discouraged after failing once or twice. I consider one of the keys to Japan's future Growth Strategy in fact to be "participation by all," in which all human resources are able to utilize the full expanse of their potential within their own particular areas of participation.
Dr. Osamu Shimomura, who set forth the theory of the "income doubling plan" during Japan's period of high growth, said in a paper entitled "The Possibilities and Conditions for Economic Growth" that growth policy is the creation of "conditions that will bring into play to the greatest extent possible the capabilities actually held by the Japanese people."
Dr. Shimomura pointed out that 45 million persons in the labor force had "few opportunities to demonstrate" their creative abilities "even though they have extremely high levels of latent ability" and explained that the Japanese economy would be able to grow if only these "opportunities" were provided properly.
I consider Dr. Shimomura's words to have universal value even now.
(The movement of labor without unemployment)
While it has been only three months since my government was inaugurated at the end of 2012, we have seen an increase of 40,000 new job offers, an area which had been stagnant until then. The first and second prongs of my three prongs of economic revival are certainly generating growth in the form of new employment.
We will smoothly shift human resources from mature industries to growth industries having increasing opportunities for employment. "The movement of labor without unemployment" is one strategy for growth.
It will be necessary to enhance workers' competencies in order to meet the needs of growth industries. We will considerably increase subsidies to support the movement of labor. These will help corporations that accept workers to cover the costs of training that are incurred.
As a first step for matching up growth industries and workers in a smooth manner, we will expand the trial employment system, which supports employment on a trial basis for three months.
We will revise the current system, which can only be used when a job is introduced to the worker by the government's "Hello Work" program, so that it may also be used when workers use private-sector employment introduction agencies or the career centers at the schools where they graduated, thereby taking the perspective of the job seeker. This will also be a first step in making use of the vitality of the private sector in matching up movement by the labor force to growth industries.
We will also dramatically expand the coverage for this assistance to young people who graduated from college but are still unemployed, and so on.
5. Young People Who Can Succeed in Global Competition
We must have the young people who will shoulder the responsibility of the future Japan develop their capabilities further.
For those young people who will work hard to obtain the various types of qualifications sought by corporations, such as a qualification as a certified social insurance labor consultant, I would like for us to establish a "voluntary career improvement system" through which we will support them.
However, what is in demand in this age of international megacompetition is "internationally competent human resources." What we need now is "young people who can succeed in global competition."
Despite this, Japan's young people are instead becoming more inward-focused. The number of Japanese students studying abroad peaked at 83,000 in 2004 and has since been on the decline, falling as much as 30 per cent by 2010, to 58,000.
It is against that background that I first of all started the "JENSYS 2.0" project.
We will have a large number of young Asians come to Japan and engage in exchanges with Japan's young people. One of the goals of this is for young Japanese to be greatly stimulated by this and deepen their understanding of Asian nations even as it creates opportunities to look outward.
A major issue will be language, which is fundamental to communication. While there is the story of Korekiyo Takahashi, who, having suffered through the bitter hardship of mistakenly signing a contract for indentured servitude in the United States, mastered English at the risk of his own life, that is a thing of the past.
I consider it necessary to foster in a wide variety of situations an environment in which it is essential for youth to master useful English.
First, we must undertake the actions we call on others to take. I have given instructions that the test to be taken to become a national civil servant should include living English as a mandatory field.
(Postponing job hunting activities)
We must not allow young people taking on the challenge of studying overseas to suffer disadvantages even as they are being highly valued.
However, the possibility of students staying on for an extra year at their universities upon their return to Japan in order to look for a job is cited by nearly 70 per cent of universities surveyed as being an "obstacle to studying overseas."
It has also been pointed out that job hunting starting during the third year of university makes it "impossible for students to focus on one's studies."
In this era of global megacompetition, we cannot overlook the fact that the young people who will bear responsibility for the future of Japan become caught up in the search for a job as their immediate task at hand and, being inward-looking, miss out on opportunities to develop their capabilities.
For that reason, we will arrange a means by which university students will focus on their studies until their third year and those returning from studies abroad do not end up delayed in their job hunting activities. I consider it appropriate to postpone the current job hunting schedule by three to four months, with information activities beginning in March, which falls in spring break, and employment screening activities beginning in August, when those studying abroad have also returned to Japan.
Recently I asked Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and the other associations in the Three Economic Associations directly about this matter and they replied that they would cooperate in a constructive manner.
I will work to support young people in expanding their own potential further and in being able to find a workplace where that potential is fully realized.
6. A Japan in Which Women Shine
Now I would at last like to speak to you about active participation by women, which forms the core of my Growth Strategy.
My Strategy features the major goal of "having no less than 30 per cent of leadership positions in all areas of society filled by women by 2020."
Just recently, I made a request to the Three Economic Associations, saying, "I would like for all listed companies proactively to appoint women to executive and managerial positions. First of all, I would like them to appoint one female as an executive officer."
Under the principle of "practice what you preach," the Liberal Democratic Party has two women serving in its four executive posts. This is something that has never happened before. These two female executives are playing active roles as the most-watched female executives in Japan. I am not sure if it was thanks to that, but the Three Economic Associations replied in a positive manner immediately.
However, the actuality facing us is in fact still extremely challenging.
The labor force participation ratio drops precipitously for women in their 30's into their 40's, in what is the problem of the so-called "M-shaped curve." While there has been a gradual trend toward improvement, Japan is still strikingly behind when we compare it to the countries of Europe and elsewhere.
The reality is that a large number of women are still faced with choosing between raising a child or having a job.
(A plan to accelerate the elimination of childcare waiting lists)
There are some 25,000 children nationwide awaiting childcare. The situation is very serious.
However, there is one municipality that went from having the largest number of children awaiting childcare to zero waiting children in only three years by using one method and another. That municipality is the city of Yokohama.
If you do it, you become able to do it. So, the question is really, will you do it or not?
I would like to see what could be called the "Yokohama method" deployed horizontally all around Japan, with a view to eliminating childcare waiting lists at an early time.
First of all, we will provide vigorous support also to non-registered childcare facilities, which until now have not been eligible for national support, on the premise that these facilities seek to be registered in the future.
Small-scale childcare facilities having less than 20 children under care, which until now have not been able to receive assistance, as well as extended-hour childcare facilities at kindergartens, will also now be eligible to receive support.
In addition, we will move forward in preparing childcare options having a rapid impact by promoting the childcare center establishment and new entries by a variety of entities, making use of rented facilities and so on, as well as by relaxing the requirements for providing childcare arrangements within places of employment.
We must also secure a sufficient number of childcare providers.
There are 1.13 million licensed childcare providers nationwide. However, only about 380,000 of them are actually working as such at present. Almost 70 per cent of them withdrew from the front lines when they got married or had children and have not returned since then.
We will work to improve the treatment of childcare providers in order to promote their return.
We have prepared a "Plan to Accelerate the Elimination of Childcare Waiting Lists," which is comprised of such kinds of comprehensive countermeasures.
The "New System for Children and Child-rearing" had been scheduled to be launched two years from now. However, we cannot wait that long, as the situation is very serious.
For that reason, we will implement this plan promptly, beginning this fiscal year.
We will prepare childcare arrangements for 200,000 children across the two years of fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2014. In addition, we will aim at the elimination of childcare waiting lists by securing childcare arrangements for 400,000 children by 2017, when childcare needs will reach their peak.
In order to bring this about, we must also have the municipalities, which are the entities implementing childcare, become earnestly engaged in aiming for the same goal.
The government will aim to eliminate childcare waiting lists by making its utmost efforts and do everything in its power to support municipalities with the will to achieve this.
(Support for a return to work after three years of being close to the children)
If you investigate the reasons that people who resigned from their jobs upon becoming pregnant or having a child did so, in fact the most common reason is not "it is difficult to work in a way that is compatible with raising children," but rather, "I quit voluntarily because I wanted to focus on the household and on raising my child."
Understandably, there are also people who, once their child is born, wish to focus on raising their child for a certain period.
At present, the length of childcare leave allowed under the Child Care and Family Care Leave Act is in principle one year. However, surveys conducted in this area indicate that as many as 60 per cent of people would like to take more than one year of leave. The fact is that as many as 30 per cent of people would like to focus on raising their child until the child is roughly three years old.
If we are to aim for "a society in which women are able to continue working," then naturally the involvement of men in childrearing will also be important. Therefore we must also respond to such a need. This means ensuring that both men and women are able to focus on childrearing until the child reaches the age of three and then making it possible for them to return to their workplaces with surety.
For this reason, today I made a request to the Three Economic Associations that they promote "three-year childcare leave" as a voluntary measure, rather than as a legal obligation.
However, I will not leave it at simply making this request. I intend for the government to establish a new subsidy or provide some other form of support for companies that actively embrace "three-year childcare leave" and work to expand considerably the potential of the active participation of families with small children.
There may also be some concern about whether or not people with lengthy blank spots in their career will be able to keep pace, even if they are returning to jobs they had done in the past.
By preparing new programs that enable such people to "relearn" skills at universities, technical colleges, and the like before they return to their jobs in full swing, we will comprehensively support their "return to work after three years of being close to the children."
(Assistance for re-entering the workforce and for starting businesses after raising a child)
The experience of focusing exclusively on raising a child is also a valuable one. In fact, I believe that childrearing itself is even something that should be respected as one type of "career."
In fact, there is a woman who opened up a new market at a scale of 200 million yen by starting a company that develops clothes enabling women to breast-feed even when outside the home, a business area that was rooted in her own experiences.
The fresh perspectives of women who have raised children are full of "potential" that leads to new products and services.
I very strongly wish for them to utilize those experiences in society.
To make that possible, we will provide assistance that enables a return to the workforce at any time by people who, rather than take childcare leave, once resigned from their company to focus on childrearing over a number of years.
We will provide support for re-employment for people who focused on raising their children over many years, making use of new internship endeavors and the trial employment system.
In addition, we will prepare the financial assistance necessary when starting a venture or founding a company for those people who wish to take the opportunity to start their own company, making use of their experiences raising children.
I will aim to create a Japan in which all women, whether active in the workforce or focused on the home, have confidence and pride in the lifestyle they lead and are able to shine.
Applying the three key concepts of "taking on challenges," "openness to other countries," and "innovation," I believe that bundling together the three new prongs of the Growth Strategy will enable Japan to start ascending the stairway of growth once more.
I would like to close my remarks with a different quotation from Dr. Shimomura, whom I spoke about earlier.
This statement can be found in the preface to his 1960 research paper entitled, "Fundamental Issues in Growth Policies." It is a powerful message from Dr. Shimomura to Japan as it was about to begin its full-scale period of high economic growth.
"It is our own choices and determination and our creative endeavors in the present that will determine our fate ten years from now. What will develop this potential and bring it into realization is not the unenterprising and passive principle of 'conceding anything to avoid confrontation,' but rather an ambitious and creative robustness. This is a time for us to move forward with confidence, convinced of the creative abilities of the Japanese people."
I believe in the abilities of the Japanese people. The Japanese economy will grow robustly once more through the strength of the Japanese people. Grounded in this belief, I will formulate a Growth Strategy of a nature altogether different from what has come before and execute it resolutely.