JFTC Essay Competition

Summaries of the Award-Winning Essays of JFTC Essay Competition 2012

The Grand Prize

"Strategies for a Depopulating Japan"A British Model and a Japanese Legacy

Mr. Michael Sullivan (The United Kingdom, age 30)

A strategy for a depopulating Japan will always be constrained by the very nature of Japanese people combined with a lack of strong political leadership; in fact these are factors which have been attributed to being the cause of economic stagnation and resistance to reform for a number of years now. However, around the world we have seen the power the message of change can provide, such as the Arab Spring and the election of US president Barack Obama. This year there has also been a message of change in the UK, a message built on the platform of the London Olympics and which has become synonymous with the concept of a legacy. The world was shown an Olympics which was meant to inspire, to not just benefit the UK today but also for generations to come and change attitudes forever. There are strategies that Japan can use to fight against depopulation and a low fertility rate; using Britain as a model we can identify key ideas in employment, child benefits, immigration and education. These have helped Britain's fertility rate rebound in a matter of years together with high net immigration which has ensured that the population continues to grow.

Although the same policies and attitudes of Britain can't be exactly replicated in Japan, ideas can be planted in Japan in order to bear the same fruit. In order to be able to implement the necessary changes in law, employment, attitudes, immigration and education a special movement needs to be started, in other words Japan has to announce the beginning of its own unique legacy in order to inspire its people and create a new country for its future generations. The creation of a new legacy for Japan, a cry for change, can have profound effects on a society and provides the capability and desire to implement reform. Gender roles need to be challenged in order to release mothers back into the labour force, immigration has to be loosened for the greater good and a new brand of internationalisation needs to be realised. It is time for the world to become Japanized at the same as a new Japan is conceived via a legacy for tomorrow's children.

The Prize for Excellence

Strategies for a Depopulating Japan – Towards a More Inclusive and Happier Japan

Ms. Kadri Metspalu (Estonia, age 27)

Japan is a country with rich cultural heritage, a great innovative industry and high living standards. However, its future is not so bright because of the ageing and declining population, which puts the country's long-term future at risk. In my essay I offer possibilities to reverse this downward trend.

First, it requires better use of the existing population's potential. On one hand women's role in the society needs to change to help tackle the negative demographic trends. This requires increasing birth rate as well as women's participation in the labour market. The current problem is that women put off having families because they also want to have careers. The latter becomes difficult after having children due to obstacles in finding a job and inflexible working hours. Thus, by guaranteeing women their position after having kids, making working hours more flexible and with bigger men's role at home, women could have both careers and children, while helping Japan face its difficulties.

On the other hand, job certainty of young and senior workers has to improve. This could be achieved with Generation Pact that allows involving both young people and elderly workers, thus ensuring their confidence in future. Also elderly can play a greater role in a new type of caretaking institutions, companionship centres, which include work division between active elderly, professional caretakers and Japanese high technology. Moreover, this model could be exported to other countries facing ageing societies.

Yet, to deal with the rising social costs and lack of workforce, Japan also needs to open up to immigration. This would involve short-term stays of young people with work-and-travel visas as well as long-term settlement with people integrating to the society. Immigration would allow bringing in new talents, creating worldwide networks and covering rising social costs, thus increasing Japan's competitiveness.

To successfully face the existing challenges, Japan needs a positive vision instead of the current rather negative outlook. The new Japan should be about creating a more inclusive and tolerant society with a more flexible hierarchy and a stable system for workers. In such a society people would also want to contribute more, have bigger families and guarantee a great future for Japan.

So, in a happier and more secure society that values each individual's potential together with increased immigration flows, Japan will overcome the challenges of declining and ageing society and keep its leader position in the world

The Prize for Excellence

Japan's Declining Population: A Comprehensive Approach to Reversing the Trend

Mr. Anil Nirody (The United State, age 69)

For twenty years and more, there have been warnings about the decline in the population of Japan. Some articles forecast that the population could drop to 87 million by the year 2060. Combined with the expected increase in life expectancy , it is predicted that , in 2060, the percentage of the population over age 65 could be as high as 40%.

Causes of the Population Decline
Since the phenomenon of the population decline is not new , there has been plenty of discussion about its causes. They can be divided into three groups

  • 1. The decline in the birth rate
  • 2. Societal problems such as hikikomori, freeters and neeters
  • 3. Resistance to immigration

Each of these has many underlying factors that will have to be addressed for any realistic chance of success.

Fixing the Problem
A comprehensive approach incorporating the following initiatives:

  • 1. Making it easier for women to bear children and for families to raise them .
  • 2. Making it easier for women to pursue a career after motherhood.
  • 3. Improving the work-life balance.
  • 4. Giving young people more hope for the future by increasing employment opportunities.
  • 5. Changing immigration policies to create a more diverse , dynamic society.
  • 6. Using TV and other media to have the public buy into these changes.

My vision of Japan in the year 2060
A more dynamic , diverse nation with happy , confident , relaxed, productive citizens proud of their culture and secure in their place in the world.

The Prize for Excellence

Building a New Social Structure: Work and Employment Model of "Covering and Sharing"

Mr. Takashi Asano (Japan, age 44)
(Full text in Japanese)

One of the major problems of a depopulating society is that depopulation goes on along with rapid aging of the society. We could say that an ever-declining working population is an intrinsic issue of this aging and depopulating society, which directly means that the society will find less and less contributors for supporting the existing social security system. Even though there aren't enough contributors of the social security system, abandoning it is not an acceptable option in a contemporary society. Obviously, as there is no quick fix for a population decline, it will be necessary to review and reform the existing system.

What we need now is to revise the current social framework to be able to find ways to increase the number of contributors and workers. The basic concept here is to create a work and employment model of "Covering and Sharing". It is like, I would say, a team sport: each member plays both defense and offence. Of course, as each individual comes from a different background and physical capacity is one of the obvious differences, it is not realistic for each to play the same role. In order to incorporate such individual differences so that each one can play his role in the society, we must change the social structure accordingly. For example, in the field of corporate society, job description should be prepared properly and set in place, while employment regulations that restrict the dismissal of employees should be eased, and then more and more people are able to get jobs by not only sharing the same position but covering each other.

Although work and employment model of "Covering and Sharing" might evoke an image of a dwindling economy, however, new possible services and some demands will surface one right after the other by providing job opportunities for more people. Besides, this new social structure should be built upon available people with good health regardless of age. As measures for preventive health care and therapy are better-balanced in Japan than other countries, such knowledge and experiences of introducing "Covering and Sharing" should also be rolled out thoroughly in the world.

The obstacle against this model is only a negative belief that says to be difficult to achieve it in reality and not an efficient measure. A strategy for a depopulating society is not new. The success only depends on how determined we can be in achieving this and the government initiatives should also be a part of the measures.