Japan needs an open platform where mature
debate even about taboo issues is possible

February 10, 2016

Hiroya Masuda
Advisor, Nomura Research Institute, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications

I have been pointing out the problem of Japan's declining population since last year and I wish to continue doing so this year as well. In addressing this issue, we need to discuss how non-Japanese will be able to make the best of themselves in Japan. How the Japanese and non-Japanese can work together to maximize their respective abilities on Japanese soil, and how Japan can contribute to global society in the true sense of the word are issues that the global community would expect to see action on from Japan.

Japan's rapidly declining population calls for the need to have non-Japanese supplement the work force to avoid labor shortages. I believe people coming to work in Japan should not be accepted as cheap labor such as in the case of the current technical intern training program. The issue of non-Japanese is linked directly to the issue of immigrants and the general inclination is to avoid debate on these issues. But it is important to start open debate on how Japanese and non-Japanese can co-exist despite the differences in religion and ethnicity.

While Japan should actively accept people from outside the country who want to come and work here, it does not have to accept immigrants. Immigrants implies that they will eventually seek Japanese nationality. Rather, co-existing in the same workplace while overcoming differences in nationality is the appropriate course of action.

The Abe administration has set a target of seeing Japan's birthrate -- the average number of children a woman is estimated to give birth to in a lifetime -- rise to 1.8 by 2025. Even if this goal is achieved with the implementation of effective policies, the results will only show 30 to 40 years from now. So in the short term, Japan will still be facing a labor shortage and the country should address this problem by thinking of ways for non-Japanese to play an active role in Japanese society.

⇒ Yasushi Akashi
Chairman, International House of Japan, former United Nations Undersecretary-General

⇒ Yasuchika Hasegawa
Chairman of the Board, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd.

⇒ Hiroya Masuda
Advisor, Nomura Research Institute, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications

⇒ Yuji Miyamoto
Chairman, Miyamoto Institute of Asian Research, former Ambassador to the People's Republic of China

⇒ Akihiko Tanaka
Professor of International Politics at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, University of Tokyo

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