Policy Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the 193rd Session of the Diet
Friday, January 20, 2017
I would first like to begin with the matter of easing the burden of official duties and public activities of His Majesty the Emperor. Consideration of this matter by the Advisory Council is currently underway, and it is soon expected to organize key points. I intend to have a final draft that is prepared with the understanding of the public in a calm and composed environment.
At the end of last year, I visited Pearl Harbor together with President Obama, and there we offered our deepest condolences to all the souls that were lost in World War II.
Japan lost more than three million compatriots in the war. A great many youths lost their lives, and people’s livelihoods, infrastructure, and industries were completely destroyed.
More than 70 years on from the Meiji Restoration, Japan was reduced to burnt-out ruins stretching as far as the eye can see. The nation had no choice but to start again from scratch.
Our predecessors never gave up, however. They bravely raised themselves up from the ruins and poverty and opened up the way for the next era in Japan’s history. They built up, for the future generations to come, what is now the world’s third largest economy and a free and democratic nation that can stand proud amongst the nations of the world.
Over 70 years have now passed since the end of the war. We, today, must also raise ourselves up. Now is the time to make a start on carving out a new era beyond the “post-war” era.
We will confront head-on difficult issues such as the declining birthrate and aging population, overcoming deflation and achieving renewed growth, and the increasingly severe security environment, and take on the challenge of building up our nation anew for the sake of future generations to come. Now is the time for us to meet our obligations to future generations.
For the sake of our children, grandchildren, and the generations beyond, let us, all of us, stand once again on the start line looking ahead toward the next 70 years, and move forward with new nation-building efforts.
2. Building a nation that shines at the center of the world
(The Japan-U.S. Alliance)
Japan and the United States, two nations that once fiercely fought each other as enemies, have, through the power of reconciliation, become allies tied together with strong bonds.
The world is still wrought with conflict, even today. Many people are suffering as a result of cycles of enmity. Under such circumstances, Japan and the United States have a duty to demonstrate the importance of tolerance and the power of reconciliation, and to work together tirelessly in the interests of global peace and prosperity.
The Japan-U.S. Alliance has, is, and will continue to be, the cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy and security policies. This is an unchanging principle. I intend to travel to the United States at the earliest possible opportunity to meet with President Trump to further strengthen the bonds of our alliance.
Last month, we realized the land return of 4,000 ha at the Northern Training Area, pending for 20 years. The area accounts for about 20% of the U.S. facilities and areas in Okinawa, and is the biggest single return since the reversion of Okinawa.
Also, with regard to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), for the first time in the half-century, the Agreement on Cooperation with regard to the Implementation Practices relating to the Civilian Component of the U.S. Armed Forces in Japan, supplementary to the SOFA, has been concluded.
In addition, we will work to accomplish, by any means possible, the total return of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, which is located at the very heart of the city and surrounded by schools and residences, referred to as the most dangerous airfield in the world. We will move forward with construction work to relocate MCAS Futenma to off the coast of Henoko-saki, Nago City, in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling on the case.
In the past, even what was set out as “minimum” targets was not accomplished, only leaving a sense of disappointment. Even if one strings together only high-spirited words, the reality will not change, not even by a little. What is required is implementation and the delivery of results.
With regard to the impact mitigation on Okinawa, the Abe Cabinet is determined to deliver results one after another while also ensuring the maintenance of deterrence, based on a relationship of trust with the United States.
(Diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map)
This year, there will be leadership changes in a variety of different countries and major changes are expected. In times when the future is uncertain, the most important thing is to put ourselves on a firm footing and not waver from it.
Japan will work together with countries with which we share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
We will work hand-in-hand with countries such as ASEAN members, Australia, and India to ensure the peace and prosperity of Asia and the region stretching from the Pacific Rim to the Indian Ocean.
We will, as the standard-bearers of free trade, build a 21st century economic system based on fair rules.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement sets the standard for this, and will be a cornerstone of future economic partnerships. In addition to aiming for the earliest possible conclusion of the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), we will take the lead in negotiations to see that frameworks such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) become ambitious agreements and work to extend free and fair economic zones across the world.
Persistence is the driving force. Five years have passed since I took office, and even amongst the leaders of the G7 countries my tenure is relatively long. Building on the over 500 summit meetings conducted so far, Japan will engage in dynamic peaceful diplomacy and economic diplomacy, and fulfill its responsibilities at the center of the world stage, while taking a panoramic perspective of the world map.
(Improving relations with neighboring countries)
Tensions are rising in areas stretching from the Sea of Japan to the East China Sea and down into the South China Sea, and the security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. I will work proactively to enhance relations with our neighboring countries in the interests of regional peace and stability.
Enhancing our relations with Russia is also extremely important from the perspective of security in Northeast Asia. However, more than 70 years after the end of World War II, we still find ourselves in the unusual situation in which a peace treaty has yet to be concluded between our nations.
When President Putin visited Japan last month we shared with each other our sincere intention to find a solution to this issue. We agreed to begin negotiations on the issue of former island residents freely visiting their hometowns and their family graves, and on joint economic activities based on a “special arrangement” covering all four islands of the Northern Territories, and these moves represent important first steps on the way toward concluding a peace treaty based on a fresh new approach.
In order to add momentum to this, I will visit Russia at an early date this year. Solving this territorial issue, which has seen no progress for over 70 years will not be easy, but with the earnest wishes of the now-elderly former island residents etched into our hearts, we will make steady progress, even if only one or two steps at a time, toward concluding a peace treaty.
A Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit will be held this year in Japan, and regional level cooperation on a wide range of matters including the economy, the environment, and disaster risk reduction, will be strengthened.
The Republic of Korea (ROK) is our most important neighbor with which we share strategic interests. We will work to deepen the cooperative relationship between us for a new era with a future-oriented perspective by building on the international agreements between our two nations and on our mutual trust.
We welcome China’s peaceful development. Under a mutual awareness of our major responsibilities toward regional peace and prosperity, we will take advantage of the opportunity provided by this milestone year in which we mark the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, and next year, in which we mark the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China, to work together on improving our relations from a broad perspective based on the principle of a “Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests.”
It is totally unacceptable that North Korea last year carried out two separate nuclear tests and went ahead with the launching of more than 20 ballistic missiles. In addition to sanctions based on Security Council resolutions, Japan also implemented its own measures in cooperation with other concerned nations. Based on the consistent policies of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action” we will strongly demand that North Korea take specific actions to comprehensively resolve the issues of its nuclear program and ballistic missile program, and the abduction issue, which continues to be a priority issue for Japan and one that has been drawn out over many years since its inception.
(Proactive Contribution to Peace)
At South Sudan’s first national sporting event since the country gained its independence, athletes from different regions and ethnicities gathered together and marched into the main venue proudly with their country’s brand new flag in their hands.
One of the venues used was a sports ground that was formerly riddled with holes and it was members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) who filled these in one by one by hand, using more than 1,000 concrete blocks to complete the work.
As chance would have it, the soccer final held on the final day of the event was a match pitting politically-opposed ethnic groups against each other. However, the players and the spectators remained committed to fair play throughout the match. At the end of the match, members of the winning team put their arms over the shoulders of the members of the team that lost and the players praised each other on putting up a good fight.
A Juba City resident who had taken their young son to watch the match expressed how moved they were by the actions of the players saying:
“I hope South Sudan becomes the kind of peaceful country where sports can be played every day.”
What the SDF members built isn’t just a sports ground. It is a place where peace is created. Without any doubt, each and every activity engaged in by the SDF in South Sudan connects directly to the country’s self-dependence and peaceful nation-building.
Right now as I speak, there are SDF members working to counter piracy in the scorching heat of the Gulf of Aden. SDF vessels have escorted over 3,800 ships from around the world through the area.
People around the world laud, thank, and rely on SDF members for their assiduous hard work in the interests of peace. Their steadfast devotion to the performance of their duties has made them the pride of the Japanese people.
Global issues such as terrorism, the displacement of refugees, poverty, and infectious diseases are growing increasingly serious. Japan cannot be the only nation that averts its eyes from this reality. Now is the time for us to hold up high the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace.” Let us contribute as much as we can to global peace and prosperity.
3. Building a country that sustains robust growth
Honorary Professor Yoshinori Ohsumi received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine last year, making it the third straight year that a Japanese national has been awarded a Nobel Prize. His success on the world’s center stage has offered significant confidence and courage to all of Japan, teaching us that you can do anything you set your mind to.
“The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented.”
This is a quote from Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dennis Gabor.
In Japan there were a myriad of baseless predictions about the future five years ago: “Japan cannot grow anymore because of population decline” or “Japan has reached its twilight.” Japan was filled with pessimism that fanned uncertainty.
Indeed, barriers stood in our way, namely, deflation sentiment and the sense of giving up. Criticism of our economic policies, suggesting that growth is not possible under Abenomics, was rampant after the change in government.
Yet Japan is still capable of growing. The Abe Cabinet has steadily challenged barriers with its three policy arrows over the past four years in order to invent the future.
The result was an increase in nominal GDP by 44 trillion yen. Japan’s economy grew 9%. Bankruptcies by small and medium enterprises and small-scale entrepreneurs dropped to the lowest level in 26 years, a 30% reduction from prior to the change in government.
Across-the-board pay scale hikes, something that had long been forgotten, were achieved for three straight years. The ratio of job offers to job seekers surpassed 1.0 in all 47 prefectures for the first time in history. A positive economic cycle is clearly being generated in all corners of the country.
The relative poverty rate, an indicator of disparity, has been declining recently. In particular, the relative poverty rate for children decreased by 2% to 7.9%. This rate had rose consistently since the start of the survey 15 years ago, but dropped for the first time under the Abe Cabinet.
Things deemed impossible have been accomplished in succession. The pessimism of the past was entirely incorrect. Our Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito administration has proven this point.
We will further advance this positive economic cycle. Let us continue to join forces based on a stable political foundation to steadily overcome the barriers in our way.
(Positive cycle for small and medium enterprises and small-scale entrepreneurs)
We will ensure that the wave of economic recovery further reaches small and medium enterprises and small-scale entrepreneurs throughout Japan.
Last month, we updated the notification regarding subcontractor payments for the first time in 50 years. We put an end to the practice of promissory notes that have made financing difficult for subcontractors, and have ensured that subcontractor payments are made in cash in principle. We fundamentally overhauled the operating standards of the Subcontract Law for the first time in 13 years in light of the realities of subcontractor bullying in recent years. We will strictly apply the new rules and improve conditions for subcontractor transactions.
We will lower the employment insurance premium from April utilizing the benefits of growth. This change will reduce the burden on small and medium enterprises and small-scale entrepreneurs and boost disposable income that the workforce receives. We will also support employers that actively raise wages by expanding tax exemptions.
We will cut the fixed asset tax on capital investments over the next two years in half for a period of three years in order to boost productivity. We will also encourage proactive investments in shopping districts and other areas by broadening this program beyond manufacturers to the retail and service industries.
(Vitalizing local economies)
The Ajino shopping area in Okayama, which had become a desolate street of shuttered stores with an average of 20 people per day, took on the challenge of this “barrier.”
The shopping area, local government, and chamber of commerce teamed up to launch “Kojima Jeans Street” centered around the local textiles industry. The street has over 30 jeans stores, and jeans buses and jeans taxis operate from the train station whose interior is decorated with a jeans-pattern wall and floor wrapping.
It has truly become a sacred place for jeans. It has been reborn as a shopping district that attracts more than 150,000 tourists a year. Its reputation has spread to overseas as well, and foreign tourists from Asia have been increasing.
Japan’s regions have their own appeal, tourism resources, and local specialties. They can certainly overcome the “barrier” of depopulation by leveraging these attributes to the greatest possible extent.
We will craft our own future through our own ingenuity and efforts. The Government will support the enthusiastic challenges of local regions with local economic vitalization grants that allow substantial flexibility.
We will promote decentralization reforms proposed by local regions for the local regions. We will ease restrictions related to utilization of vacant homes and unused land and enable effective usage by local governments.
We will take on the challenge of vitalizing local economies, driven by our passion for furusato or hometowns. The Abe Cabinet will support people in local regions with its utmost efforts.
In the past, there was the “10 million” barrier. The number of foreign visitors to Japan had stalled at just over 8 million people a year prior to the change in government.
The Abe Cabinet broke down this barrier in just one year. The number of foreign visitors has risen to all-time highs in four straight years and exceeded 24 million people, a threefold gain, last year.
The number of foreign cruise ships stopping in Japan increased fourfold in just three years. Foreign cruise tours are being organized to see locally esteemed festivals, such as the Kanto Festival at Akita Port, the Nebuta Festival at Aomori Port, and Awa Odori at Tokushima’s Komatsushima Port. The increase in foreign cruise ships offers a major opportunity for local regions.
Private-sector funds will be utilized to accelerate development of international cruise hubs. We will revise the Port and Harbor Law to create a new framework that allows priority use of wharfs and other benefits to businesses making investments.
Okinawa provides a link with Asia. It is a gateway for Japan’s tourism and distribution. New Ishigaki Airport started operating a regular flight from Hong Kong last year, and this is boosting the number of foreign visitors. We will support the construction of facilities to accommodate larger aircraft.
Discounts on landing fees will be provided and immigration control and other infrastructure will be built to aid operation of regular international flights at regional airports nationwide. Haneda and Narita Airports will expand capacity by 40,000 flights by 2020. To this end, Haneda Airport will start construction of a new international terminal building.
We will reform regulations to promote the growth of so-called “minpaku” (accommodation at private residences for a fee). We will strive to expand minpaku services by giving exemptions from the Inns and Hotels Law if hygiene management and certain other conditions are met.
We will mobilize all policies to become a tourism-oriented country with our next higher goal of 40 million foreign visitors per year.
(The new era of agricultural policies)
Agriculture, the core activity of local economies, has faced the “barrier” of aging. The average age of farmers is over 66 years old.
However, the number of new farmers in their 40s or younger has risen for two straight years under a proactive agricultural policy, and exceeded 23,000 people, the highest level since statistics began to be taken. Most recently, agricultural income produced totaled 3.3 trillion yen per year, growing to the highest level in the past 11 years.
We will submit eight agricultural policy reform bills to this Diet session to give further momentum to these advances, and accelerate reforms at once.
We will enact an agriculture version of the Law on Strengthening Competitiveness. Farmers will be able to buy fertilizers and feed as cheaply as possible and sell farming produce at prices as high as possible. We will promote business reorganization and new entrants in production material and distribution areas in order to support such efforts by farmers.
We will move forward with reforms of the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations for the benefit of farming households, such as shifting from consignment sales to purchase sales. We will closely manage progress, including the progress of the achievement of numerical targets.
We will fundamentally review the current subsidy program that effectively limits distribution of milk and dairy products to the agricultural cooperative route and thereby enable producers to operate their businesses freely.
We will promote larger-scale farming through the farm land bank. We will strengthen competitiveness with the aim of capturing global markets by standardizing production processes and distribution control and fostering a brand through JETRO’s global network.
By moving forward at once with multiple agricultural policy reforms simultaneously, let us work together in opening up a new era of agricultural policies that enable young people to entrust their dreams and futures to the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries.
(Regulatory reforms that fuel innovation)
We will overcome all barriers that interfere with our ambitions. R&D investments and regulatory reforms are vital to steadily creating innovations. The Abe Cabinet will continue to shoot the third arrow.
We will create a new scheme that will enable the use of medical information based on preservation of anonymity. Japan will accelerate its development of new drugs and treatment methods ahead of the world by utilizing big data.
Automated driving using artificial intelligence is the future. To move closer to this future, a variety of verification tests are planned in various regions in 2017. We will support private-sector initiatives aimed at early realization of automated driving leveraging national strategic special zones and other measures.
We will also move forward with administrative reforms from a private-sector perspective. We will carry out integrated and fundamental reforms of various government statistics untouched for many years.
We will fully liberalize gas retail sales from April 2017. This reform will bring about dynamic development of diverse services and cheaper energy costs together with last year’s liberalization of electricity sales.
Hydrogen energy holds the trump card for energy security and measures to address global warming. Our regulatory reforms thus far will soon open the way to a hydrogen society of the future here in Japan. Operation of the world’s first-ever bus equipped with large-capacity fuel cells will begin in Tokyo from March. By next spring, 100 hydrogen stations will be built nationwide, and for the first time in the world electricity will be supplied through hydrogen power generation in Kobe.
We aim to expand the use of fuel-cell cars to the 40,000-level, which is 40 times the existing level, by 2020. We will also pursue world-first large-scale hydrogen transport using a liquefied hydrogen carrier. Japan will build an international hydrogen supply chain that extends from production to transportation and consumption ahead of the world. Toward this goal we will identify all regulations that cut across ministries and agencies and proceed with reforms.
4. Building a safe and secure country
(Reconstruction of disaster-affected areas)
We will produce hydrogen on a large scale from renewable energy. A cutting-edge verification project has started in Fukushima.
Young people who will succeed town factories in Minamisoma joined together to develop a robot for conducting underwater studies in the wake of natural disasters. Koki Watanabe, a second-generation operator of a metal mold factory and participant in this project, expressed his strong resolve to me.
“We will harness the strength of our young people so that Minamisoma becomes known as a robot town.”
The Hamadori region severely damaged by the nuclear power accident is now attempting to become a site that develops global cutting-edge technologies.
We will revise the Law on Special Measures for the Reconstruction and Revitalization of Fukushima and promote its Innovation Coast Concept. We will strengthen the structure of joint public-private teams and accelerate the revitalization of “nariwai,” or occupations and livelihoods that sustain people’s daily lives.
Decontamination will be completed during the current fiscal year, excluding the difficult-to-return zones. In addition to steadily proceeding with decommissioning, compensation payments, and other measures, we will promptly build intermediate storage facilities in order to eliminate provisional sites from nearby locations by 2020. We will also establish reconstruction sites in difficult-to-return zones. With the goal of lifting the evacuation order by five years from now, we will proceed with decontamination and infrastructure building in an integrated manner with the national government covering the expenses.
We expect to complete over 95% of disaster public housing and also finish 90% of the relocations to elevated sites by spring 2018 in the three Tohoku prefectures. We will strongly support the revitalization of nariwai, namely, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, and other local industries.
Access to Aso, a leading tourist site in Japan, has greatly improved since last month’s reopening of the Takamori route in Kumamoto, including Tawarayama Tunnel, that had been closed since the Kumamoto Earthquake. The Government will make maximum efforts to support the rebuilding of the Kumamoto Airport Terminal Building and also the prompt reconstruction of the castle tower at the Kumamoto Castle, a symbol of reconstruction.
(Building national resilience)
Evacuation delays resulted in the deaths of nine seniors due to river flooding in Iwaizumi Town in Iwate during Typhoon No. 10 in 2016. I visited this site to pray for their souls and renewed my resolve to prevent a recurrence.
We will fundamentally revise the Flood Control Law. Facilities with people who require special assistance in evacuations, such as nursing care facilities, schools, and hospitals, will have an obligation to prepare evacuation plans and conduct drills. We will also take steps to ensure that local residents are sufficiently aware of water disaster risks, including risks posed by smaller rivers.
We will improve our national resilience with thorough measures to mitigate disasters and alleviate disaster impacts in advance, including water control measures, preparations to deal with water and landslide disasters, and maintenance and upkeep of aging infrastructure using leading-edge technologies.
(Safe living environment)
I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy to people affected by the large-scale fire in Itoigawa. The Government will provide its fullest assistance in rebuilding daily life and resuming businesses as soon as possible.
Ill-intentioned business operators targeting seniors and others continue their activities. A new litigation system that lets consumer groups request help for victims started last year. We will establish a framework in which the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan supports these efforts in pursuit of delivery of prompter aid.
We will ensure that the Olympic and Paralympic Games three years from now are successful. We will strengthen our cybersecurity measures as well as measures to combat terrorism and other organized crime. We will use this opportunity to promote urban environments where everyone can co-exist, including extensive measures to deal with passive smoke exposure, promotion of universal designs, and accommodation of a variety of food cultures.
Many innocent people at a facility for disabled persons lost their lives in July 2016. This type of incident should never happen and cannot be allowed. We will revise the Law on Mental Health and Welfare for the Mentally Disabled and steadily take prevention measures, such as creating a framework to continue assistance for involuntary admission patients after leaving the hospitals.
5. Building a country with the dynamic engagement of all citizens
We will create a society in which everyone - those with disabilities or fighting an illness, female or male, elderly or young, or people who have experienced failure - can find fulfilment and fully exercise their capabilities.
If we can pioneer the future with the dynamic engagement of all citizens, we will certainly be able to overcome the challenges of a society with a declining birthrate and aging population.
However, people have different home environments and circumstances. Even if people wish to do something, they find various “barriers” in their way, including inflexible labor systems and difficulties balancing work with daycare and nursing care. We will work to eliminate each and every one of these barriers. That is what is meant by building a nation with the dynamic engagement of all citizens.
(Work style reform)
The biggest challenge we face is to engage in bold reforms of labor systems in order to enable diverse and flexible work styles that respond to people’s individual circumstances. This is work style reform.
Through Abenomics the ratio of job offers to job seekers currently stands at the highest level in 25 years. For the past three years the ratio has consistently remained above 1.0. From 2015 regular employment started to increase and for 24 consecutive months has outpaced previous years’ figures. These improvements in the employment environment are also creating positive developments in the private sector, including moves to postpone retirement or continue to maintain wage levels beyond retirement age.
Now that the employment environment is taking this positive turn, we are presented with a major opportunity to press forward with work style reform. In March the Government will approve the Action Plan for Implementing Work Style Reform and accelerate reform initiatives.
We will realize equal pay for equal work. We formulated draft detailed guidelines for correcting unreasonable differences in treatment individually and in a concrete manner, including differences in the handling of salary increases, non-payment of commuting and other allowances, and differences in the provision of welfare benefits and training. We will advance work to revise legislation that will become the basis for such efforts, with the aim of submitting it to the Diet at an early juncture.
Just over a year ago a woman during her first year on the job took her own life, faced with the harsh situation of long working hours. I would like to reiterate my heartfelt prayer for the repose of her soul. We will engage in efforts to correct long working hours with the strong resolve that this tragedy is never again to be repeated. We will accelerate work to revise legislation that will establish a limit on overtime work with penal regulations, a limit that cannot be exceeded even under the so-called Article 36 agreement.
Abstract slogans alone will not change society. What is important is for the Government to stipulate specifically what constitutes unreasonable treatment and what the maximum number of overtime hours should be. Let us work together to advance work style reform that is not just empty words, but will generate firm results.
(Empowerment of women)
“People can make a fresh start at any age and from any circumstances.”
These are the words of Ms. Chika Shima who dedicated herself to child rearing for 16 years, after which she applied herself to recurrent education and returned to the workforce. Ms. Shima has been appointed to an executive position and finds great fulfilment in her work. These are the words she shared with me as she smiled.
“It is precisely because I have experienced child rearing that I find there is so much in the workplace to which I can apply these experiences.”
The presence of people who have diverse experiences such as in child rearing and nursing care is something that should create tremendous advantages for companies.
We will break down the so-called “1.03 million yen barrier,” significantly raising the upper limit on income eligible for the special spousal reduction under the income tax system, so that women who work on a part-time basis can work without deliberately curtailing or adjusting their working hours.
We will drastically enhance support to people who seek reemployment or retraining after leaving employment due to childbirth or for other reasons. We will establish subsidies to support companies that actively seek to encourage people to return to work. We will revise the Employment Insurance Law and raise the rates and the maximum amounts for educational training benefits. We will make detailed enhancements to reemployment support, ensuring that people can receive vocational training while their children are in daycare, or that they can audit the necessary classes on weekends or in the evenings.
(Positive cycle of growth and distribution)
We will endeavor to ensure that people can balance daycare and nursing care with work.
We will extend childcare leave benefits up to a maximum of the child’s second birthday to ensure that no person has to leave his or her job for reasons of childcare. We will work with local governments to lower mortgage interest rates for households raising children and provide support for three-generation families that are living together or in close proximity.
Eliminating childcare waiting lists and reducing the number of people who leave employment to provide nursing care to zero. It is toward these major goals that we will accelerate the expansion of the capacities of the daycare and nursing care systems. We will extend deregulation nationwide that will allow the construction of daycare and nursing care facilities in urban parks, a policy we have implemented under the National Strategic Special Zones initiative.
In order to secure the necessary human resources we will undertake the improvement of employment conditions in the budget for next fiscal year. For employees working in nursing care we will create mechanisms for experience-based salary increases that will improve monthly wages by 10,000 yen on average. For childcare providers we will provide additional monthly emoluments of roughly 5,000 yen for those with three or more years of experience and of 40,000 yen for those with seven or more years of experience.
In addition, all childcare providers will be provided with a 2% improvement in wages, which will achieve a cumulative overall improvement in wages of 10% since the inauguration of the Abe administration. In contrast, during that three year and three month period, wages for childcare providers not only failed to improve, they actually deteriorated. What is important is not oft-repeated rhetoric, but rather taking responsibility to secure financial resources and achieve results. The Abe Cabinet will respond to its public mandate not with words, but with results.
We will reduce the pension eligibility period from 25 years to 10 years. Although we may have postponed the increase in the consumption tax rate, we will newly initiate the provision of pension benefits to an additional 640,000 people from October this year. We will enhance financial assistance to ensure the stable operation of the National Health Insurance system by local governments. Against the backdrop of significant increases in the minimum wage, we will implement various improvements, including extending the period for payment of unemployment benefits to the younger generation.
In the budget for next fiscal year we have increased national tax revenue by 15 trillion yen and have been able to reduce the issuance of new government bonds by 10 trillion yen compared to before the change in government. Using these fruits of Abenomics we will endeavor to create a positive cycle of growth and distribution.
At the same time we will never waver in our reforms to build a sustainable social security system for the future.
We will push forward with fundamental reform of the drug pricing system. We will increase the frequency of drug pricing revisions from once every two years to every year, and achieve a reduction in the burden borne by the people of Japan together with an improvement in the quality of medical care. With regard to the health insurance system and the special case in which elderly people receive preferential treatment over people of working age, we will implement revisions to this practice for people who have a certain level of income.
The cumulative effect of these reforms is yielding results and in next fiscal year’s budget for the second consecutive year we were able to keep the increase in social security expenses to 500 billion yen, which previously had been increasing by one trillion yen every year. Going forward we will continue to simultaneously achieve the triple reforms of economic revitalization, fiscal reconstruction and social security reform while pioneering the future with the dynamic engagement of all citizens.
6. Building a nation where children can strive to achieve their dreams
(Revitalization of education that respects individuality)
Children are the future of our nation.
We will promote the revitalization of education that respects each child’s individuality.
Following the recent passage of the legislation to secure educational opportunities, we will enhance support to children attending free schools and build an environment in which children, who are not able to go to school due to various reasons such as bullying or developmental disabilities, can regain their confidence and engage in learning.
We will establish specialized universities for the provision of practical vocational education. By expanding student choices we will reform the education system, which has to date been single-track and standardized.
(Education that gives everyone a chance)
“There should be no household in a village without education, nor anyone in any household without education.”
It was more than 140 years ago when the Fundamental Code of Education was established and the concept of national education was set forth in Meiji-era Japan.
A little more than 70 years after that, the Constitution of Japan stipulated that all people should receive an ordinary education that should be free and Japan launched a nine-year compulsory education system for elementary and junior high school.
This year is the milestone 70th anniversary of the promulgation of the Constitution.
During the past 70 years the economy and society have both changed tremendously. In order that each child can pursue his or her own dreams we must ensure that higher education is truly open to all people. The preamble to the Fundamental Code of Education states the following.
“Learning is the key to success in life.”
Everyone should be able to realize their dreams, regardless of the material wealth of their upbringing. To this end we must build an environment to ensure that anyone who wishes to do so can advance to high school, specialized vocational college, or university.
We will further enhance the provision of scholarship grants to high school students. From spring this year we will ensure that regardless of academic results all students who need them will have access to interest-free scholarship grants (loan). By introducing a system that will alter the terms of grant repayment depending on a student’s income after graduation, we will reduce the burden on them.
Furthermore we will newly establish a scholarship system that does not require repayment. This system will be launched this year firstly for students who are in particularly challenging economic circumstances, such as those in child welfare facilities and those in foster care. From next year the system will expand to encompass 20,000 students in an academic year, who will be provided with a monthly scholarship of between 20,000 to 40,000 yen.
For preschool education too, we will further expand the scope of free education for low-income families, making education free for the second child, in addition to the current provision for the third and subsequent children.
A country in which all children, regardless of their families’ economic circumstances, can have hope for the future and work towards realizing their individual dreams. Let us work together to pioneer such a future for Japan.
We will pioneer the future for our children and grandchildren.
It is said that it was Kenzan Nonaka, a statesman of the Tosa Domain, who started clam farming in Tosa Bay during the Edo Period. Local folklore tells us that this is what Kenzan said.
“I will bring back delicious clams as a gift from Edo.”
Upon hearing this many local people gathered at the port and waited expectantly. However, no sooner had the ship loaded with clams arrived from Edo, than Kenzan threw every single one of them into the ocean. To the people who complained that they had not been able to eat the clams, Kenzan had the following to say.
“These clams are a gift for the generations of the future. I want our children and grandchildren to taste them.”
These clams brought by Kenzan became established in Tosa Bay. Even today, 350 years later, they continue to be a great blessing for the people of Kochi.
This was truly an action that sought to “pioneer the future.”
The future can be changed. Everything depends on the actions that we take.
Nothing will be achieved by wallowing in criticism or waving placards in the Diet, the chamber of speech. Although our opinions may differ, let us all engage in sincere and constructive debate to produce results.
We pioneer our own future with our own hands. That is precisely the will that is required now.
In this milestone year of the 70th anniversary of the promulgation of the Constitution, we must look ahead to the next 70 years and ask what kind of country we want Japan to be for our children, grandchildren and future generations to come. Let us deepen concrete discussions in the Commissions on the Constitution so that we can present a proposal to the people of Japan.
Pioneering the future. That is the solemn responsibility mandated by the people of Japan to all Diet members in this chamber.
Let us all pioneer a future in which Japan shines at the center of the international stage, where all citizens are dynamically engaged, and where all children can work towards the realization of their dreams.
Thank you for your kind attention.