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2012年5月 7日 (月)

憲法記念日に―われらの子孫のために

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 3
EDITORIAL: Constitution Day offers timely reminder of society's responsibilities
憲法記念日に―われらの子孫のために

For whom does the Constitution of Japan exist?
 日本国憲法は、だれのためにあるのか。

The answer lies in the Preface of the Constitution. It says we, the Japanese people, “for ourselves and our posterity…do firmly establish this Constitution.”
 答えは前文に記されている。「われらとわれらの子孫のために……、この憲法を確定する」と。

To whom does the Constitution grant fundamental human rights?
 基本的人権は、だれに与えられるのか。

The answer is written in Article 11 of the document. These fundamental human rights “shall be conferred upon the people of this and future generations.”
 回答は11条に書いてある。「現在及び将来の国民に与へられる」と。

The time has come to ask important questions about the meaning and implications of these constitutional provisions.
 私たちは、これらの規定の意味を問い直す時を迎えている。

That’s because we are now facing a raft of tough and important choices that are bound to have a strong and deep impact on the livelihoods and way of life of future generations.
 いま直面しているのは、将来の人々の暮らしや生き方をも拘束する重く厳しい選択ばかりだからだ。

The nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture last year has already left scars that will not disappear for decades.
 原発事故はすでに、何十年も消えない傷痕を残している。

We are also at the crossroads between success and failure in our efforts to develop sustainable economic and social models to meet the challenges posed by global warming and Japan’s fiscal woes.
地球温暖化や税財政問題でも、持続可能なモデルをつくれるかどうかの岐路に立つ。

Thus, we should not focus our thoughts only on the interests of those living in this era. We need to exercise our sovereign rights for “all the Japanese people,” including those who will live in this country in the future.
 ならば、いまの世代の利益ばかりを優先して考えるわけにはいくまい。いずれこの国で生きていく将来世代を含めて、「全国民」のために主権を行使していかねばならない。

Sixty-five years have passed since the postwar Constitution came into being. In human terms, the Constitution has reached a mellow age. The supreme law of our nation, as it reads now, leaves us feeling that we are being urged to face up to the need to pay more serious attention to the well-being of future generations.
 施行から65年。人間でいえば高齢者の仲間入りをした憲法はいま、その覚悟を私たちに迫っているように読める。

Redistribution that only increases poverty
■再分配で貧困が増す

How about the realities of Japan?
 現実の日本の姿はどうか。

Aren’t we unconsciously infringing on “the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living” (Article 25) of even children living now, not to speak of future generations?
 将来世代どころか、いまの子どもたちの「健康で文化的な最低限度の生活を営む権利」(25条)まで、知らず知らずのうちに奪ってはいないか。

The poverty rate among Japanese children is higher than the average among the industrial countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. One in every seven children in this nation is forced to endure financial hardship.
 子どもの貧困率は、経済協力開発機構(OECD)の平均を上回り、7人に1人が苦しい暮らしを強いられている。

The main reason for this problem is the general poverty of single-parent families.
 主な理由は、ひとり親世帯の貧しさだ。

In the mid-2000s, nearly 60 percent of such families in Japan were living below the poverty line, the highest rate among the 30 OECD countries at that time. The days of an all-pervasive middle-class mentality among Japanese now seem to be a thing of the distant past.
2000年代半ばの各国の状況を比べると、日本ではその6割近くが貧困に陥り、30カ国の中で最も悪い。「1億総中流」とうたわれたのは、遠い昔のことのようだ。

What are the key factors behind this situation? Here’s the OECD’s diagnosis.
 原因は何か。OECDは次のような診断を下している。

One major factor is low income. The number of extremely low-paid, nonregular workers has grown rapidly in recent years. In particular, many single mothers have no choice but to take poorly paid jobs.
 第一に所得の少なさである。著しく賃金が低い非正規労働が急速に広がり、とりわけ母子家庭の母親の多くが低賃金を余儀なくされている。

A second key factor is biased redistribution of income. Social security is heavily biased in favor of benefits for the elderly, such as pensions, health care and nursing care, and much less beneficial for families with small children, especially needy ones.
 第二に所得再分配のゆがみである。社会保障が年金や医療、介護など高齢者向けに偏り、子どもを持つ世代、特に貧困層への目配りが弱い。

As a result, the poverty rate among children has continued to rise. This has to do with the way taxes are imposed and social security benefits are provided.
このため、いまの税や社会保険料の集め方、配り方では、子どもの貧困率がいっそう高まる現象が日本でのみ起きている。

The nation’s tax and social security systems were built on the notion of a “standard family.” In this context, the husband is a full-time employee of a company and is paid a salary and allowances. This allows him to support his wife and children. The wife is either a full-time homemaker or a part-time worker, and is mainly responsible for raising the children.
 正社員の夫の会社が、家族のぶんまで給料で面倒を見る。専業主婦かパートで働く妻が子育てを担う。それが、かつて「標準」とされた家庭像だった。

When such households were the norm, the majority of Japanese felt they belonged to the middle class. This sentiment prevailed as long as the government provided policy support to a wide range of industries and focused its welfare policy on the elderly.
 国が幅広く産業を支援し、高齢者に配慮すれば、多くの人が「中流」を実感できた。

But this Japanese-style welfare society, which depended heavily on the roles played by companies and families, is now broken. That’s because the basic assumptions on which the system was built have changed significantly over the years. These assumptions include continuous and healthy economic growth, a low rate of business failures and a low divorce rate.
 だが、会社と家庭に頼る日本型福祉社会は壊れている。前提だった経済成長、会社倒産の少なさ、離婚の割合の低さなどが揺らいだからだ。

Employment system also needs an overhaul
■雇用慣行も改めよう

As society has changed, so has the number of people who are not covered by the protective umbrellas offered by companies and families.
 社会の変容に伴い、会社や家庭が差し出す傘の中に入れない人たちが増えた。

Children of fatherless families are typical of those who are not properly protected by the safety net.
 たとえば、母子家庭の子どもがその典型だろう。

Young people hunting for jobs are another vulnerable group. They suffer as their peers, those with full-time jobs, curb new hires in order to protect their economic fortunes.
 就職をめざす若者もそうだ。正社員の大人がみずからを守るために、新規採用を絞り込む。

In essence, this means that adults who are protected by the umbrella are keeping out those who are less fortunate.
 これは傘の中の大人が、子どもたちを傘に入れまいとする姿ではないか。

Even if individual adults are not acting out of malice, the end result is that society as a whole is mistreating its children.
個々の大人に悪意はなくても、社会全体で子どもを虐げていないか。

We clearly need to create a new, larger protective umbrella that can shield such vulnerable members of society.
 私たちは、もっと多くの人々が入れる大きな傘を作り直さなければならない。

That requires changing the redistribution system and employment practices.
 そのために、再分配の仕組みと雇用慣行を改めよう。

It is vital to prevent the poverty of parents from putting their children at a serious disadvantage. We need to ensure that needy children can also receive a decent education. It is also important to take steps to make sure that workers doing work of the same economic value receive the same level of wages. That would narrow the income gap between regular employees and nonregular workers.
 貧しくても教育をきちんと受けられるようにして、親の貧困が次世代に連鎖するのを防ぐ。同じ価値の労働なら賃金も同一にして、正社員と非正社員との待遇格差を縮める。こんな対応が欠かせない。

There will probably be strong opposition to such measures to help the weak. This is because implementing them will inevitably cause others, such as people who have finished raising children and permanent employees, to bear a fresh burden.
 反発はあるだろう。実現するには他のだれか、たとえば子育てを終えた世代や正社員が、新たな負担を引き受けなければならないからだ。

A conflict of interest?
■「利害対立」は本当か

Let us ask one important question here.
 しかし、ここであえて問う。

Is there really a conflict of interest among different members of society?
 互いの利害は本当に対立しているのか。

Adults whose children slipped through the protective umbrella should think about who will keep the umbrella over their heads when they get old.
 子どもたちを傘の外に追い出した大人は、自分が年老いたとき、だれに傘を差し出してもらうのか。そこから考えよう。

Pension payouts are financed by the premiums paid by the working population as well as revenue from the consumption tax.
 年金の原資は、現役世代が支払う保険料と、消費税である。

If companies reduce their full-time employees, the number of subscribers to the government-managed corporate pension program falls.
 企業が正社員を減らせば厚生年金の加入者が減る。

Young people with low-paid, nonregular jobs are forced to scrimp on spending.
低賃金の非正規の仕事で働く若者は消費を削らざるを得ない。

In other words, cutting back on new hires erodes the funds that will be used to pay pension benefits to current permanent employees in the future. Reducing hires of full-time employees will thus jeopardize the financial security of current permanent employees’ retirement in the future.
 つまり採用削減は、正社員が将来受けとる年金の原資を減らしていく。いずれは、我が身の老後を危うくするのである。

If it becomes financially difficult for young people to get married and have children, the number of children in Japan will dwindle further. That would cause consumer spending in this country to fall, the domestic market to shrink and Japanese companies to sink into financial trouble.
 若者が結婚し、子どもをもうけることが難しくなれば、さらに少子化が進む。消費も減り、市場が縮み、企業は苦しくなる。

Japan is already trapped in this downward spiral.
そんな負の連鎖に日本はすでに陥っている。

Society prospers when it takes good care of its young generations as they bear its destiny. Society declines when it fails to do so.
 将来を担う世代を大切にすれば社会は栄え、虐げれば衰える。

May 3 is Constitution Day. It offers a good opportunity for us to think about this obvious but oft-forgotten fact. This is a crucial test of our imagination.
憲法記念日に、そんな当たり前のことを想像する力を、私たちは試されている。

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