Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Today I reshuffled my Cabinet. This Cabinet is “the Cabinet that takes on challenges to secure our future.”
We will bring a halt to the dwindling birthrate and aging population and maintain a population of 100 million people even 50 years from now. We will also build a society in which all people—elderly or young, male or female, and those with intractable illnesses or disabilities—can take another step forward beyond where they now stand. The Abe Cabinet will begin to tackle new challenges in order to carve out a brilliant future in which all one hundred million-plus citizens are each dynamically engaged.
I will fire my new “three arrows” forcefully, seeking to attain the three major targets of raising GDP to 600 trillion yen, our largest in the post-war era; raising the birthrate to 1.8 children per woman, which is the level the public has indicated as desirable; and eliminating cases in which people have no choice but to leave their jobs to provide nursing care. I believe we have succeeded in preparing a robust structure for achieving this.
First of all, going forward, we will continue to place the utmost priority on the economy. We will aim to expand our GDP to 600 trillion yen. We must strengthen our economic policy still further. I have retained Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Minister [in Charge of Economic Revitalization] Akira Amari in their positions. We will also continue to expand employment and work hard to increase incomes as the framework supporting Abenomics. We will execute the Growth Strategy and keep advancing an economic virtuous circle whose benefits are truly felt keenly by all.
Our vitalization of local regions will also shift into full swing from now. I will continue to have Minister [in Charge of Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan] Shigeru Ishiba dedicate his greatest possible efforts to advancing the vitalization of local regions in tangible ways, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south.
Minister Keiichi Ishii will serve as Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, a pivotal role in making local regions active. With his wealth of background in policy, having chaired New Komeito’s Policy Research Council for quite some time, I have great expectations for the ability he brings to this position.
I have asked Minister Hiroshi Moriyama to serve as Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, whereby he will advance comprehensive countermeasures in light of the agreement in principle of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. Minister Moriyama led agricultural policy within the LDP for many years. He will make the TPP not a “pinch” but a “chance,” faithfully taking into consideration the anxieties of people engaged in agriculture in the local regions and truly working together with them. We will boldly push forward with agricultural reforms to shift towards agriculture that enables young people to have dreams.
The Growth Strategy is nothing other than reforms above all else. I have asked Minister Motoo Hayashi, a veteran of so many years, to assume the position of Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. I want him to make use of his abundant political experience to support small- and medium-sized enterprises and micro enterprises all around Japan and decisively execute the Growth Strategy and structural reform.
We will create a society in which all people have their hopes for marriage and childbirth fulfilled and raise the birthrate to 1.8 children per woman from the current rate, which has stayed at the low rate of approximately 1.4 births per woman. In addition, as the super-aging of our society progresses, we will create a society in which no one in the generations in the prime of their lives, notably the second baby boomer generation, has to quit a job because of the need to provide nursing care.
We will actively take on these enormous challenges. To do so, it will be absolutely essential to eliminate the vertical segmentation of Kasumigaseki [where Government ministries and agencies are located] and undertake efforts in which all Cabinet members work as one. It will be necessary to have the creative power to craft bold policies along with the forceful ability to break through barriers to unfailingly put those policies into practice. I have asked Minister Katsunobu Kato, who has served until now in the position of Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary as the backbone of political administration in which the Prime Minister’s Office takes the initiative in policymaking, to take up the position of Minister forPromoting Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens, a newly-established position that will function as the “control tower.” Minister Kato has demonstrated strong leadership in bringing together relevant ministries and agencies within Kasumigaseki in promoting the dynamic engagement of women and reforming social security.
Relevant ministers, including Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the foremost reformist in the LDP, and Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Hiroshi Hase, well-versed in educational administration and having bold creative power, will join forces, with Minister Kato playing the central role. We will draw up original and effective policies and put them into practice.
As we work towards a society in which all one hundred million-plus citizens are each dynamically engaged, our task is nothing other than to execute, execute, and execute policies.
The creation of a society in which women shine is central to a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged and it continues to be among the greatest challenges for the Abe Cabinet to tackle. The Abe Cabinet intends to have women be increasingly active, and in this reshuffle I retained in the Party Ms. Tomomi Inada as Chair of the LDP’s Policy Research Council and, in my Cabinet, Minister Sanae Takaichi as Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications. I would like them to continue their active contributions as the central core of our political administration.
I also had Minister [of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs] Aiko Shimajiri and Minister [of the Environment] Tamayo Marukawa newly join the Cabinet. I want them to make full use in their respective fields of their particular outlook as women and bring fresh perspectives to their jobs.
I would like Minister Shimajiri, a Diet member representing Okinawa, to actively and resolutely advance measures to promote Okinawa that are sensitive to the feelings of the people of Okinawa, so that Okinawa, which is a bridge to Asia, becomes a growth model of the 21st century.
Continuing to act under the fundamental position of doing everything possible, we will also make all-out efforts to alleviate the burden of the bases in Okinawa, centered on Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the minister in charge of this matter.
As for diplomacy and security, we will take all possible measures to steadily bring into force the Legislation for Peace and Security that was recently passed. I have retained Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida and Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani to make the foundation for national security fully sound while also pressing forward vigorously with proactive and peaceful diplomacy.
I will continue to have Minister Toshiaki Endo undertake all possible preparations for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as the minister in charge.
The LDP is a treasure house of human resources. Through this reshuffling, nine people have been appointed Cabinet ministers for the first time. I look forward to them profoundly demonstrating their abilities.
I asked Minister [of Justice] Mitsuhide Iwaki, a veteran politician with extensive experience, to take the helm in steering the administration of judicial affairs, an area facing a large number of issues.
Minister Tsuyoshi Takagi is very well-versed in policy matters, as he honed policy within the LDP for quite a number of years. I want him to make use of his experience, including as State Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, to accelerate reconstruction increasingly.
Minister Taro Kono is not one to play to popular opinion and has a passion for always appealing strongly for reforms. I look forward to Mr. Kono making use of his experiences to date to accelerate all kinds of reforms at once as the one chiefly in charge of carrying out reforms within the Cabinet.
I have moreover added young faces such as Minister Marukawa. I want her to use that vitality as Environment Minister to take on such challenges as countermeasures to climate change and accelerating the decontamination of Fukushima.
I believe I have set forth a structure that will boldly conceive of the future state of Japan and resolutely take on challenges in a manner that is balanced across all age groups and truly cross-generational.
I hear some people wondering if we can really achieve our goals of a GDP of 600 trillion yen; a birthrate of 1.8 children per woman, the level people desire; eliminating the need to quit one’s job to provide nursing care; and a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged. How pervasively the deflationary mindset spread to every corner of Japan as a result of the deflation that lasted for nearly two decades. I have felt once again the depth of the roots of the loss of confidence that blankets Japan.
And yet we must do these. We cannot simply allow the trend towards an aging society with a falling birthrate to continue as is. In order to hand down to our children’s and grandchildren’s generations a Japan of which we can be proud, the Abe Cabinet will set forth clear targets and work to achieve them to secure our future.
We will for a start draw up the first round of countermeasures that we should implement urgently, and then transition immediately into executing them, at as early a time as possible within this calendar year. I intend to have Minister Kato promptly launch the National Council to Promote the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens and have him compile measures to be taken. Moreover, keeping our eyes focused on 2020 and beyond, by when should we aim to realize these and what kinds of policies will we execute in concrete terms as we work towards these three clear targets? I will have Minister Kato compile a concrete roadmap as a Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens.
Just over 1,000 days have passed since the inauguration of the Abe government. Thanks to Abenomics, employment has increased by more than one million people and wages have increased for two consecutive years. We have successfully created a situation that is not deflationary any longer. Through the efforts of all the Japanese people, Japan was able to welcome a new morning.
You can do it if you try. Grounded in that strong belief, I will take on the challenges of the structural issue of a declining birthrate and aging society together with all the Japanese people. I wish to start our great efforts to tackle this challenge heading towards our future of a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged.
I ask for your continued understanding and support towards the new Abe Cabinet as well.
That is the end of my opening statement.
Questions and Answers
REPORTER (ABIRU, SANKEI SHIMBUN): My name is Abiru from the Sankei Shimbun, one of the coordinators of the press club.
My question might overlap somewhat with your opening statement just now, but today your third reshuffled Cabinet was launched and until now there have been major political issues such as security legislation, reform of the agricultural cooperatives, the TPP Agreement, and the restart of nuclear power plants. Through your reelection in the election for LDP president last month, your term of office extends until September of 2018. You spoke again just now of the issues of economic revival and the shrinking birthrate and aging society as your highest priorities, but over the longer term, what do you consider to be the policies you should carry out over the next three years, including after the House of Councillors election next summer? And what do you consider to be the priority ranking among those issues?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: I believe you asked about the next three years. Over these three years, the biggest issue is undoubtedly the realization of a society that has the dynamic engagement of all citizens. A GDP of 600 trillion yen, realizing a birth rate of 1.8 children per woman, which is the birth rate Japan would have if all people’s desired number of children were realized, and the elimination of people needing to leave their jobs to provide nursing care for elderly family members. Each of these is a difficult issue, but I intend to do my absolute best to aim to achieve these major goals. They are ambitious targets and they are not simple issues that come with a ready-made blueprint. We will push forward with bold policies through the collective efforts of the Cabinet in order to bring about a Japan in which everyone is able to be actively engaged. What we must do now is move into execution. That is how I view it.
In addition, with regard to diplomatic and security matters, we will contribute to global peace and prosperity under the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace.” Creating a Japan that shines on the world’s center stage is also an important issue.
Furthermore, looking over this three-year span, we must forge the future of Japan as a nation, forging our own future, with our own hands. Over these three years, I would also like to deepen discussions by the public regarding the shape of the Constitution and the shape of the nation that are called for in this era.
We will overcome the aging society and the declining birth rate and various other long-pending issues by addressing them squarely. We will create a Japan of which we can be proud and then pass it down properly to the next generation. I consider this to be a major responsibility of both those of us alive today and politicians.
Looking squarely at the future, I am determined to tackle our major and clear challenges and deliver results, working together with the Japanese people.
REPORTER (KOBAYASHI, HOKKAIDO SHIMBUN): I am Kobayashi with the Hokkaido Shimbun.
I would like to inquire about the people serving in your Cabinet.
Through this reshuffle, you selected Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato to serve in the newly-created post of Minister for Promoting Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens. Please talk more about your aims in doing so.
Also, you retained Minister Ishiba as Minister in Charge of Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan. I imagine that there would be a lot of areas of overlap between promoting citizens’ dynamic engagement and vitalizing local economies. Please explain in concrete terms your views on the breakdown of roles between the relevant members of your Cabinet.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: My answer might to some extent overlap with the explanation I gave during my opening statement, but the issues of the declining birth rate and the aging society, as well as the depopulation [of local areas] that goes hand in hand with those, are already becoming increasingly serious in our local regions, so it is impossible to discuss the vitalization of local economies without addressing these matters. I want Minister Ishiba to continue to take on these issues in our local regions into the future.
At the same time, when we discuss a shrinking birth rate and aging society, it is Tokyo that has the lowest birth rate anywhere in Japan. I believe that it is not necessarily the case that we can discuss the issue of the declining birth rate only from the perspective of vitalizing local economies. Furthermore, we must press forward in building up the nation under an approach that is not constrained by ideas that have existed until now and which goes beyond the frameworks of individual ministries and agencies, addressing such issues as the revival of education, assistance for child rearing, making employment and nursing care for the elderly compatible with each other, and creating a society in which people can be active their entire lives. With this in mind, I decided to aim at a society in which everyone is dynamically engaged, setting forth clear and ambitious targets that include a birth rate of 1.8 children per woman, as desired by the public, as well as eliminating the need for people to quit their jobs in order to provide nursing care for elderly family members, and decided to work towards the realization of these.
I want the Minister for Promoting Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens to lead the entire Cabinet towards bringing such ambitious targets to realization, working in close cooperation with the other related ministers. I regard the Minister for Promoting Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens as the “control tower” for making this happen.
For more than 1,000 days since the inauguration of this government, Minister Kato served as Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, bringing together ministries and agencies and supporting political administration in which the Prime Minister’s Office takes the initiative in policymaking. With regard to concrete policies as well, he was in charge of [promoting] the active participation of women in society and the reform of social security, among other things, and I found him to have demonstrated strong leadership. I think that people also evaluated him highly for his performance as Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary.
I would like him to make full use of the broad horizons he cultivated through this experience in which he broke away from the custom of government ministries and agencies operating in a vertically segmented manner, his creative power to think up bold policies, and his potent ability to break through barriers to execute those policies without fail. He will be the so-called “control tower” in working to promote the dynamic engagement of all citizens, and I look forward to him doing his very best as the commander at the vanguard.
REPORTER (YAMAGUCHI, ASSOCIATED PRESS): I am Yamaguchi with the Associated Press. Thank you for taking my question.
Mr. Prime Minister, as you stated just now, a society in which all citizens are actively involved is a major objective for the reshuffled Cabinet announced today.
I would like to ask about the dynamic engagement of women, something you have been taking on in particular as one of the paramount issues for you.
Is it correct that this assistance to promote the dynamic engagement of women is aiming at economic effects—that is, halting the decline in the population through economic revival and an increase in the birth rate and building a country that can maintain a strong economy and social security?
Also, there have been various policies to support women these past two years, but among them, if there are any for which you think the results have been insufficient and further effort is needed, what kinds of areas are they and what do you see as issues to tackle going forward?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Not only within Japan but also when I travel internationally, I have been saying that “Abenomics is womenomics.” We must put the brakes on the decrease in the population due to a decline in the birth rate and maintain economic vitality.
Up until now I have invested effort in preparing an environment in which women find it easy to make child rearing and employment compatible, such as by eliminating childcare waiting lists. And at the same time, I have urged the appointment of women to executive positions by requiring information disclosure on the number of female board members in corporations as well. My policies have achieved effects to a certain degree, and over the last two and a half years approximately one million women have newly entered the labor market while the number of female corporate board members has increased by roughly 30 per cent.
In the future, in order to attain still further success, we will be strengthening still further our reforms to how people work through the pursuit of a work-life balance; promoting the employment of women and their appointment to executive positions in both public and private organizations through the steady enforcement of the recently-enacted law on promoting the active participation by women; and assistance to families facing hardship.
Despite this, it is not easy to raise the proportion of leadership positions held by women to 30 per cent. One cause is that there are few women to begin with in the age bracket that has already acquired a certain amount of career experience. So I think it is necessary first of all to increase the proportion of women at the hiring stage, and then on that foundation have them build up experience appropriate for taking up leadership positions, thereby expanding the pool of human resources.
In that sense, under the principle of first undertaking actions we call on others to take, among national civil servants, we have properly begun ensuring that in hiring, 30 per cent of the candidates for future management positions are women.
The greatest obstacle for women as they steadily build up their careers is a working style that approves of long working hours. I believe we must expand the corporate culture that values working efficiently over a limited number of hours and make it a matter of course in Japan as well that couples should shoulder housework and child rearing together.
Here in Nagatacho [the seat of Japan’s national government] and Kasumigaseki [the location of most ministries and agencies] and I imagine in your field [of the press] as well, I think it is necessary for us to properly address this work-life balance as well.
If that happens, I expect that over time it will become possible for both men and women to naturally be able to perform highly productive jobs while having rich personal lives.
In addition, I want to aim at a society in which in every possible field more than 30 per cent of leadership positions are held by women. In doing so, of course the fact is that limitations do exist, as I just mentioned, but I intend to move forward reliably towards this target.
In that sense, I think that how politics works has a major impact. Within that context, we too intend to make our greatest possible efforts going forward.
REPORTER (SUGITA, KYODO NEWS): I am Sugita, with Kyodo News.
Mr. Prime Minister, in your press conference the other day, you indicated your intention to promptly compile domestic countermeasures to address the TPP Agreement, in light of the people working in agriculture and others who harbor unease about the Agreement’s impact on them.
And then as you explained just now, you overviewed your intention to formulate the first round of measures towards creating a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged.
Do you have any intention to give instructions to formulate a supplementary budget for these endeavors? If so, please tell us about what you intend, including your image of the scale of such a budget.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Minister Amari has returned to Japan and he provided a direct report to me regarding the contents of the agreement in principle during the TPP Agreement negotiations.
In order to make the TPP Agreement truly connect directly to Japan’s economic revival and vitalization of local regions, I have given instructions to establish a TPP Task Force that will include all Cabinet ministers and to examine comprehensive countermeasures. Agriculture is the very foundation of our nation, and we must protect Japan’s beautiful landscapes. I consider that to be the government’s responsibility. My own home region includes a large number of farming village areas, and I believe that it is only in having international cities such as Tokyo as well as unique regional cities, and beautiful farming villages, fishing villages, and rural landscapes that we find Japan.
It is necessary to create vibrant farming villages and fishing villages for that reason as well, and I intend to transform this from being a “pinch” to truly being a “chance.”
We will conduct a very thorough examination of how [the TPP Agreement] could potentially affect the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries in concrete terms.
On that basis, before we seek Diet approval concerning the conclusion of the TPP Agreement, we will compile a package of domestic countermeasures in a responsible manner as a government-wide endeavor. I intend for us to take every possible measure, making use of this package together with the measures we acquired through [international] negotiations [on the TPP Agreement].
As for the budget necessary for taking domestic countermeasures, I plan to move forward in considering that in the future, taking various viewpoints into account.
Thank you very much.