Japan Looks to Promote Parenthood
Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE
"Japan Looks to Promote Parenthood"
(by The Associated Press) New York Times
The article reports that the Cabinet is making a determined move to deal with the plummeting birth rate in Japan. It reports that Mr. Koizumi gave his ministers instructions to formulate a plan by September to make it easier for people to have children. Health Minister Sakaguchi has used strong words to describe the situation that, "If we go on this way, the Japanese race will cease to exist."
This is not the first time the sort of policy is sought. From time to time, politicians, bureaucrats, and scholars issued warnings, and some even provided ideas to reverse the trend of decreasing birth rate in Japan. The concern, however, failed to spread out among ordinary people. There were even arguments supporting the shrinkage of population, based on the idea that since the total wealth would be distributed by less number of people as the population shrinks, each person will be able to acquire larger chunk, effectively becoming rich. Proponents of this theory has become scarce, as more people began to feel this assumption is neglecting the dynamism of economy and society, but it seems there are still not enough people who are alarmed by the fact, and the foreseeable consequences of drastically aging, and then decreasing, population. One reason for the people's neglect could be that the consequences of aging population would be felt only gradually, in seemingly a distant future. This is true to an extent. But this corresponds to the fact that any measure taken, even a very effective measure at this moment, would take a great deal of time for its effects to realize.
It is a necessary and welcome move by Mr. Koizumi, then, to have come to face this issue in a resolute manner.
There is another element in this article that is very interesting and worth noting. It is the immigration policy of Japan. The article points out that one of the unique aspects of the Japan's case of declining population is the fact that there are very few immigrants to fill in for the decreasing younger generation, as has been the case with most of the other developed countries.
The article points out correctly that there has been no real immigration policy in Japan. Many people simply have not thought about it, while in some regions social instabilities are reported, said to be brought about by immigrants, both legal and illegal.
The fact that there is no policy or consensus on the issue could be seen in the varied attitudes of people toward the recent incident of five North Koreans seeking asylum at the Consulate General of Japan in Shenyang, China. As commented briefly in "News Review #32", many people, including lawmakers and bureaucrats, were not able to make a distinction between refugees, as defined internationally, and illegal immigrants. There were comments suggesting the five asylum seekers should have been welcomed to live in Japan. It sounds, and perhaps in a real sense, very humanitarian. But when they realize that there are literally millions of people out there not only in North Korea but in other Asian countries including China as well aspiring to come to Japan and live, it is doubtful that the advocates of such a thought would adhere to the utopian idea of accepting any and everyone who wants to come and stay here.