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  • Quoted in Asia Weekly: “Falling birthrate, rising life expectancy afflict Japan”

    Posted by arudou debito on July 5th, 2011

    IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

    New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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    Falling birthrate, rising life expectancy afflict Japan
    By MONTY DIPIETRO in TOKYO
    China Daily/Asia Weekly, July 1-7, 2011, courtesy of the author
    http://www.cdeclips.com/files/asiapdf/20110701/cdasiaweekly20110701p05.pdf

    Japan is aging, and fast. In fact, already it is the most aged nation in human history. A falling birthrate and rising life expectancy have tilted the nation’s demographics such that 23.1 percent of the population is now aged 65 and over – a figure that has almost doubled in the past 20 years. By 2025, Japanese who are 65 and above are expected to comprise 30 percent of the population, and by 2050 the fi gure could rise to 40 percent, with a signifi cant proportion over 80 years of age. The 2050 projection shows Japan’s population, currently 127 million, dipping under 100 million.

    An obvious concern is whether fewer tax-paying workers will be able to support more benefit-claiming retirees. Japan’s healthy personal savings may help in that regard. A more human question is, “Who will provide the daily care the elderly require?”

    In many countries, the solution to shortages in healthcare providers has been to bring in foreign professionals. According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, 13,014 Filipino nurses found employment abroad in 2009. Leading hiring countries were Saudi Arabia (9,623), Singapore (745) and the United Arab Emirates (572). Japan accounted for just one during the same year.

    Under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Japan has signed similar agreements with other Southeast Asian and Pacific Rim countries), the country pledged to import foreign caregivers and nurses, primarily from the Philippines and Indonesia. But these healthcare professionals can stay for only three years, as trainees and on a limited salary. To continue to work in Japan, they must pass a test involving the reading and writing of some 2,000 kanji characters. If they fail to do so before their three years are up, they are sent home.

    In 2010, of the 257 Filipinos who took the test, only one passed. The success rate for Filipinos and Indonesians over the first two years of the program was also less than 1 percent, prompting some to regard the exam as a contrivance designed to restrict foreign professionals’ period of stay.

    “Japan has long maintained a tacit revolving-door policy for migrant labor,” says Arudou Debito, a naturalized- Japanese human-rights activist and researcher on internationalization.

    “The Japanese government imports cheap young workers during their most productive labor years, but under short-term work visa regimes to ensure they don’t settle here. In that sense, what is happening to the caregivers and nurses is completely within character.”

    Says Professor Takeo Ogawa, founder of Kyushu-based NGO Asian Aging Business Center, “Although the Economic Partnership Agreement has brought caregivers and nurses to Japan, there are many issues with the program. I believe the Japanese system of qualifi cation for caregivers and nurses is too complex for promoting international migration.

    The system here is like the Galapagos – a too-specialized evolution in a specific atmosphere. Regarding our aging society, we need to start to look at global standards for qualifying caregivers and nurses, such as the European Care Certifi cate.”

    “Although inviting foreign workers is still a minority opinion in Japan, without foreign workers we cannot maintain the Japanese social system,” says Ogawa. “We need to make fundamental changes to address our labor shortage. For example, Japan still does not have an immigration law. Without such policy changes, it will be much more diffi cult to improve the situation, not only for the elderly but also for other areas of our economy.”

    One factor working in Japan’s favor is the robust and selfless disposition of its elderly population. Many continue to work through their 70s and beyond. Garnering headlines in recent weeks was the Skilled Veterans Corps, a group of seniors led by retired engineers, who volunteered to help repair the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, with the reasoning that they will likely die by natural causes before the eff ects of radiation exposure take hold. Japanese government nuclear adviser Goshi Hosono took the flak when he dismissed the group as a “suicide corps”. The nation was enamored.

    As a last-chance alternative to importing foreign caregivers and nurses, Japan is aggressively exploring the use of robots to care for its elderly. A 7.6 billion yen ($93.7 million), fi ve-year Home-use Robot Practical Application Project has so far yielded talking kitchen appliances and networked vital sign monitors, interactive electronic companion pets, smart wheelchairs, hoisting androids and movementand ambulation-assisting skeleton suits. Robot care initiatives have met with mixed views from the elderly, who are increasingly living alone, and dying alone.

    “I don’t know about all this robot technology, because it is still under development,” says Shigeyoshi Yoshida, executive director of the Japan NGO Council on Aging, which represents about 60 aging groups across Japan. “But quick action is required; our culture does not change quickly enough. I know that personally; I would not want a robot taking care of me in my old age. I’d much prefer a young lady!”

    ends

    6 Responses to “Quoted in Asia Weekly: “Falling birthrate, rising life expectancy afflict Japan””

    1. flyjin revenge Says:

      Good article Monty, though Director Yoshida`s sexist (sexy?) suggestive comments at the close, coming at the opening of the trial of Tatsuya Ishihara, do little to dispel the image that any foreign young women coming here to work as either nurses or trainees are going to be harrassed.

      With directors like this Sukebe Oyaji, Id say the NGO is fairly directionless! The man has no tact!

      The Japanese Embassy has complained over less, so in the interests of fairness could the British Embassy please complain.

    2. TJJ Says:

      Per Takeo Ogawa in the article: “Japan still does not have an immigration law.”

      Any ideas on what he meant by that statement? It certainly does have immigration law, doesn’t it?

      – I think he meant Japan has no immigration policy.

    3. steve Says:

      The fallout effects from Fukushima are not being taken into account. The aftermath of the Fukushima even will likely have a big impact to the future of Japan. In the medium term (10-20 years) we will start to see diseases rise dramatically from the fallout and many resultant deaths. The birth rate will then fall even more dramatically and I fear this could be the death knell for Japan in the medium to a big longer term. I, of course, sincerely hope this does not happen but it is my guesstimate at this time.

    4. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Great article! The Japanese government would rather give out cash incentives to companies to develop robots to look after the elderly (great concept, lol) than admit that immigration is required for keeping the under 60 population up!
      Like I have said before, the Japanese would rather die from lack of care, one by one and un-noticed in their apartments, and preserve the fallacy of ‘pure-bloodedness’, than become a modern. multicultural nation. As they reap, they will sow.

      – Or rather, that’s what the leaders who make future policy would rather have.

    5. SJ Says:

      Can you please explain the “no immigration policy”? Is it just that there’s no National policy and that each prefecture has different policies? Yet there are national immigration laws right?

      – The GOJ has no clear or official policy for what kind of immigrants they want, or how to assimilate them to stay here long-term or permanently, as residents or citizens. There is no points system for evaluating candidates, for example. Even the word “immigration” is studiously (and unscientifically) ignored in Japan’s demographic policymaking circles. In other words, there are plenty of laws for policing foreigners. But no policies or explicit policy goals for making those foreigners into citizens.

    6. KingArthur13th Says:

      It’s sad to say but if Japan doesn’t loosen up on their immigration policy soon, there coutry will begin to disappear. Japan isn’t giving birth enough to keep up with the number of elderly people they have and robots won’t solve that issue. Unless the Japanese people don’t start making babies, immigration is their only option to survive.

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