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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Japan Is Moving

Yes that's right, on the fertility question Japan Is Moving, although it could well be a case of too little too late. I'm having a do it yourself policy wonk-in this afternoon while I await the German election results (and the evenings Barça-related football).


In June 2004, the cabinet passed a resolution entitled, “Framework of Measures to Cope with Declining Fertility Society.” This was followed in December 2004 by the New-New Angel Plan, which fleshed out key aspects of the framework. Then in March 2005, businesses confronted the deadline to formulate action plans under the Law for Measures to Support the Development of the Next Generation. As these events show, policies to counter the declining fertility rate have reached a turning point in Japan. In this paper, we examine the significance and implications of the new policy approach.

Well worth a quick read:

In 2003, two more laws were enacted: the Law for Basic Measures to Cope with Declining Fertility Society, and the Law for Measures to Support the Development of the Next Generation. The Next Generation Law recognizes the pervasive impact of declining fertility on the nation’s economy and society, and mobilizes national and local governments and businesses to cooperate in supporting education for the next generation. This development is important for two reasons. First, while previous policies had a quantitative goal of trying to raise the birthrate, the Next Generation Law addresses qualitative issues—how to better nurture the next generation and create a sustainable society. Second, whereas previous policy focused on measures for parents, the Next Generation Law directly targets children and members of society. The Next Generation Law thus represents the beginning of a new era for Japan’s social policy - the socialization of child-raising.

Among issues they arise is this:

In the past, declining fertility was attributed to the declining marriage rate. Marriage was thought to offer fewer psychological and financial benefits, and to represent a rising opportunity cost for women as more of them pursued an advanced education. A new factor that has attracted attention is the deteriorating job environment for young persons. Unemployment among young persons is rising, while more are joining the ranks of the NEET (persons not in employment, education or training). In addition, companies are restructuring andreducing regular employment, and increasing non-regular and part-time employment of young persons. As young persons face an increasingly unstable job environment and livelihood, their aspirations have diminished, causing them to think twice about marriage. This is thought to further aggravate the decrease in birthrate.

This seems to be one more argument about how fertility decline gets endogenously locked-in. If part of the problem is rising marriage ages, and the structural reforms push up the ages, well, I'm not a dutchman!

Meantime I'm wonking away at a furious rate. This afternoons most important discovery is undoubtedly the French based Ingenue group, and their latest offering: SCENARIOS FOR GLOBAL AGEING. Oh yes, and the Euopean Policy Centre paper: The Nordic model: A recipe for European success?

Whether it's a success or not may depend, at the end of the day, on how much wonking you really want to get into.

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