Economic growth basically keeps pace with population increase. Both the rapid economic growth in Japan and the recent growth in emerging economies are mainly attributed to the “population dividend.” However, Japan today is becoming a society with a low birthrate and aging population. In order for Japan to achieve economic growth despite a declining population, consideration of how to increase the number of workers among the current population is necessary. The focus should be on women, older people, and foreign nationals.
1. Establish Labor Legislation that Encourages Various Ways of Working!
In recent years, an increasing number of people have adopted crowdsourcing as a means of getting work done. Crowdsourcing here means contracting work out to multiple and unspecified people via the Internet. The crowdsourcing market in 2012 was around seven billion yen and some predict it will exceed 100 billion yen in 2016. One of the advantages of crowdsourcing is that homemakers, people with disabilities, and those living in remote areas can work for any number of hours they like at any time of their choosing via the Internet. We should view this new way of working as proactive and positive, and establish a system that promotes a variety of ways of working.
2. Offer Women More Opportunities to Work and Increase the Proportion of Women in Leadership Roles to 30%!
The number of women who are under 50 years old and want to work exceeds three million. These women represent a latent workforce with high potential. The proportion of women holding managerial or higher positions in the private sector is 11.9% at present, which is larger than in the past but still lower than comparative figures for Europe and the United States. The government has set a goal to increase the proportion of women in leadership roles to 30% by 2020. This goal should be achieved by whatever means necessary. In addition to legislative reform and implementation of support measures, it will be effective to “visualize” companies that empower women.
In France, the income tax system is designed to facilitate women’s participation in the workforce and, at the same time, offer them incentives to have large families. Under this system, the more children they have, the less tax they are required to pay (Action 39). In Japan, if the spouse deduction system is abolished and the French system adopted, we can expect the effective use of the labor of women, the country’s largest latent workforce, to be promoted. It would also help address the declining birthrate.
3. Encourage the Elderly to Contribute!
The average life expectancy in Japan hit 80.50 years for men and 86.83 for women in 2014. According to a survey by the Cabinet Office, Japan’s elderly have a higher willingness to work compared to their counterparts in other countries, indicating their strong potential as workforce. It is first of all necessary to introduce a system for retirement at the age of 70. In other developed countries, age-based discrimination in employment is generally prohibited. Japan, meanwhile, has a mandatory retirement age system, virtually the only such system in the world to legally require regular employees to retire. In the long term, it is necessary to liberalize labor regulations as proposed in “Action 42.” In the immediate future, however, elderly workers should be encouraged to contribute. In addition, it is effective to support elderly retired people in starting up their own businesses or provide matching services for white-collar jobs.
The empowerment of the elderly to stay in employment is an issue that should be addressed by the entire nation. Not just the national government but also the private sector and local governments should make this issue a high priority.
4. Implement Preferential Treatment Measures to Promote the Employment of Foreign Nationals!
The last resort to increase Japan’s workforce is to get workers from other countries. It is particularly important to establish a system that provides preferential treatment to encourage highly competent and outstanding foreign nationals to choose to work in Japan, instead of Singapore or Hong Kong. In addition to the expansion of the application of the points-based preferential treatment system for highly skilled foreign professionals, more drastic preferential treatment, such as a halving of income tax for highly skilled overseas workers for a certain period of time, should be provided.