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Japan on ”edge of losing social function” owing to plunging birthrate – PM

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. PHOTO: Eugene Hoshiko/Pool via REUTERS

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday warned that the country is on the “edge of losing its social function’’ owing to its plunging birthrate.

He said to address this would be the government’s top priority.

Kishida’s remarks were made during his policy speech on the first day of a 150-day regular parliamentary session.

The Japanese leader highlighted that births last year are estimated to have fallen below the 800,000 mark for the first time since the government data became available.

As a result of the rapidly declining birthrate, coupled with Japan’s ever-ageing population, the workforce is quickly being hollowed out and social welfare costs are ballooning.

Kishida said in his policy speech that the government would try to implement unprecedented countermeasures to boost the number of births.

He pledged to “create a children-first economy and society to reverse the country’s plummeting birthrate that is hampering longer-term productivity growth’’.

He said he intended to devise steps and seek stable financial sources to achieve this goal.

Kishida mentioned the Children and Families Agency will be launched in April and a plan actualised by June to increase by 50 per cent an allocation of funds connected to child-rearing looking ahead.

The Japanese leader also touched on the country’s poor fiscal health, calling on politicians to put Japan on a new growth track in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kishida said rising wages was the way to establish a “virtuous cycle” of ensuring increased profits from companies find their way into workers’ pockets and in turn consumption.

This has been stifled by inflation peaking to more than 40-year highs, which would be stimulated.

Wage expansion should outpace current inflation, Kishida said, which in December rose 4.0 per cent from a year earlier, to hit its highest level since 1981.

The latest core consumer price index data showed it amid soaring food and energy prices.

On foreign diplomacy, Kishida reiterated his keenness to establish constructive and stable relations with China and communicate closely with South Korea.

Regarding the approval rating for Kishida’s Cabinet tanking recently over a controversial defence spending plan and a number of ministerial dismissals.

Kishida said the government would do its best from allowing similar problems to happen again.

With specific reference to some Cabinet ministers resigning last year over political funds scandals and ties to a dubious religious group.

Kishida said all steps would be taken so that there would not be a recurrence of such scandals.

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