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2014年5月16日 (金)

50年後も1億人 大胆な少子化対策へ舵を切れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:19 pm, May 14, 2014
Chronically low birthrate can’t be fixed without bold, genuine effort
50年後も1億人 大胆な少子化対策へ舵を切れ

If Japan is serious about maintaining the dynamism of its economy and society, stemming the nation’s rapid population decrease is an absolute necessity. The government must demonstrate its leadership and launch a full-scale operation to tackle this problem now.
 日本経済と社会の活力を維持するためには、人口の減少を食い止める必要がある。政府が主導し、本格的な対策へと舵かじを切るべき時だ。

The Committee for Japan’s Future, an expert panel under the wing of the government’s Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, recently came up with a proposal on addressing the nation’s population decrease and super graying society.
 政府の経済財政諮問会議の有識者会議「選択する未来」委員会が、人口急減と超高齢化対策に関する提言をまとめた。

The focal point of the panel’s proposal is setting a target population level of 100 million in Japan 50 years from now. The government has been reluctant to set explicit targets for population or birthrate due to persistent criticism that doing so would interfere with the freedom of people to choose their own lifestyle.
 提言の柱は、50年後に1億人程度の人口を維持する目標を打ち出した点だ。人口や出生率の目標設定には、「個人の生き方への介入になる」といった批判が根強く、これまで政府は消極的だった。

However, if the population continues to shrink, it will undermine the foundation of the economy, and the government will find it difficult to maintain the nation’s social security system. It was appropriate for the panel to set a specific target for stemming the population decrease, and for them to urge the government to work on achieving the target.
 だが、人口減少が続くと、経済の基盤が揺らぎ、社会保障制度も維持できなくなる。有識者会議が、目標を定めて政府に実現を求めたのは、妥当である。

Japan’s fertility rate has long hovered around 1.4. If the figure continues to stagnate, Japan’s population is expected to plunge over the next 50 years to 87 million, about two-thirds of the current population.
 日本の合計特殊出生率は1・4前後で低迷している。この水準のままでは、50年後の人口は、現在の3分の2の8700万人にまで減少する見通しだ。

Data have indicated that couples in Japan would like to have 2.4 children on average. The gap between this figure and the fertility rate indicates that many people give up on marrying or having children due to financial difficulties and other pressures.
 一方、夫婦が理想とする子供の数は平均2・4人とされる。実際の出生率との差は、経済的理由などで、結婚や子育てをあきらめる人が多いことを物語っている。

The expert panel points out the importance of furnishing a better environment for couples to have and raise children, such as calls for improved working conditions for nonregular employees and better support for households with many children. We wish to express our support for the panel’s proposal.
 提言が、非正規労働者の処遇改善や、子供の多い世帯への支援強化など、子供を産み育てやすい環境作りの重要性を指摘したのは、もっともである。

Shift budgetary focus

A key point of contention is how to secure the revenue needed to implement the panel’s ideas. The proposal suggests that the government boldly shift its focus for budgetary allocation away from programs related to the elderly and toward those associated with children, and double the funding to support couples in having and raising children. We believe this is a realistic approach, considering the government’s severe fiscal restraints.
 問題は財源の確保だ。提言は、予算配分の重点を高齢者から子供へと大胆に移し、出産・子育て支援を倍増させるとした。厳しい財政状況を考えれば、現実的な施策と言えるだろう。

It is important for the government to continue to make efforts to curb ballooning medical and nursing care costs by asking older citizens to bear a greater share of expense, in accordance with their ability to pay. We also urge the government to reinforce measures to promote preventive medicine, including programs to help older people improve their dietary and fitness habits. Greater taxation of pensions is another issue the government needs to tackle.
 医療・介護の費用抑制のため、高齢者にも支払い能力に応じた負担を求める改革をさらに進めることが重要だ。生活習慣の改善など予防重視の取り組みも充実させねばならない。税制面では、年金課税の強化などが課題となる。

Another point worthy of note in the panel’s proposal is its analysis of the population decrease. The panel pointed out that the flow of population from rural areas to Tokyo and its vicinity is accelerating the decline in population. The birthrate in the greater Tokyo area is especially low due to a variety of challenges, including high rents and lack of day care facilities.
 提言が、地方から東京圏への人口流出が日本全体の人口減に拍車をかけていると指摘した点も注目される。東京圏では、高い家賃や保育所不足などから、出生率が極めて低い。

A subcommittee of the Japan Policy Council, a private-sector group of experts, recently released a forecast that 896 cities, wards, towns and villages—roughly half of the nation’s municipalities—will be on the verge of “dissolution” by the end of 2040 due to the outflow of people toward Tokyo.
 民間の「日本創成会議」の分科会も、東京への人口集中により、全国の自治体の半数にあたる896市区町村が、2040年には、「消滅」の危機に直面するという推計を発表した。

The government must act to rejuvenate the nation outside the major urban centers. For example, the government could provide preferential tax treatment to persuade companies to relocate their headquarters in provincial areas, which would increase employment in the main cities of these areas.
 地方の活性化策が急務である。地域の中核都市に雇用を生み出すため、企業の地方移転を税制優遇などで促す。

It should also join hands with these cities as well as surrounding towns and villages so that the positive impact of such moves spread throughout the region. We urge the central government to use such efforts to encourage younger generations to build their lives in their hometowns.
周辺自治体と連携し、地域全体の底上げを図る。こうした取り組みで、若者の地方定着を進めることが求められよう。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 14, 2014)

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