人口急減社会の問い―生き方の再検討を迫る

May 28, 2014
EDITORIAL: Japan's shrinking population forces us to reconsider how we live
人口急減社会の問い―生き方の再検討を迫る

Japan's projected population decline conjures up an image of a ball rolling down a steep slope.
 これから先、見込まれる日本の人口減少は、急な坂を転げ落ちるかのようだ。

According to estimates by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, the nation's population will shrink to two-thirds of the current level in the next half-century, and then to one-third 100 years from now.
 国立社会保障・人口問題研究所の推計によれば、人口は約半世紀で3分の2に、1世紀で3分の1に縮む。

Three panels of experts have issued reports on how to put the brakes on the decline.
 どうすればこの流れを緩められるか。官民三つの有識者会議が相次いで報告をまとめた。

All the reports concur that there are obstacles preventing people who want to marry and have children from doing so, and that these obstacles must be removed.
 主張の核心は、どれも同じ。結婚したい、産みたいという希望がかなっていないと指摘し、障害を取り除こうと訴える。

The reports also offer similar solutions, which boil down to expanding support for parents and changing the ways of working.
 対策にも共通点が多い。支援策拡充と働き方の改革である。

The Japan Policy Council, a private research foundation that issued one of the three reports, caught the public's attention by pointing out the possibility of about half of the nation's current rural municipalities ceasing to exist if they keep losing their populations to the big cities. But aside from the JPC's dire warning, the three reports offer no new practical solutions.
 三つのうち、民間の「日本創成会議」分科会が、大都市への人口流出が続けば約半数の市区町村は消滅の可能性があると指摘し、耳目を集めた。それを除けば、さほど目新しい指摘や対策があるわけではない。

This was only to be expected, as what needs to be done is already fairly clear. But the point is whether society and the political community will be receptive to the proposed solutions and follow through.
 当然だろう。元々、やるべきことははっきりしているからだ。焦点は政治と社会に理解を広げ、実現できるかどうかだ。

CHANGING REALITY OF FAMILIES
■変わる家族の現実

What are the problems?
 何が問題なのか。

Our society is solidly established on the traditional concept of the family, which is that the husband is the sole breadwinner and the wife is a full-time homemaker. But this is no longer the reality today, while the social systems, practices and people's mind-sets are still based on the traditional concept.
 夫が「一家の大黒柱」として家族のぶんまで稼ぎ、主婦が家族の世話をする。そんな家族像を前提に、日本社会に張り巡らされた制度や慣行、人々の意識が、家族の現実にそぐわなくなっている。

The situation in Japan is conspicuously different from those in other leading industrialized countries.
 ほかの先進国と比べると、日本の特徴がくっきり浮かぶ。

Despite the growing number of households where both spouses work, policy support for child-rearing families is still far from adequate.
 子育て支援が薄い。共働きの広がりに、支援策が追いついていない。

Long working hours are still routine, partly because the sole breadwinner has always been expected to put in overtime and never complain about transfers. So long as this mind-set remains, husbands will find it difficult to help with household chores and child-rearing. Women who want to work full-time jobs are forced to work long hours just like the men, and tend to put off marrying and starting a family.
 長時間労働が際だつ。「大黒柱」は残業も転勤もいとわず働くのが当たり前だったからだ。その慣行が続いている限り、夫は家事や育児に参画しにくい。男性に負けずに働こうとすれば女性も長時間労働を強いられ、結婚や出産を先送りしがちだ。

Wage levels differ greatly by how one works. In the past, part-time work was only for married women and students, whose wages were kept low on the premise that they could depend financially on their husbands or fathers. But there is a growing number of adult men nowadays who are earning low wages as part-time workers. The current trend for women to remain single or marry late will only accelerate if they keep waiting for men who will meet all their financial needs.
 働き方による賃金格差が大きい。かつて非正社員といえば、主婦のパートと学生のアルバイトだった。夫や父親の稼ぎに頼れる前提で賃金を抑えられていた。だが、その賃金水準で働く大人の男性が増えた。女性がなお「大黒柱」を待ち望めば、未婚・晩婚が進まざるをえない。

PROBLEMS WITH 'JAPAN MODEL'
■「日本型」のつまずき

If that is the case, some people argue, then we should revive the traditional concept of family.
 ならば昔の家族を取り戻せ。

But that is a tall order. The number of households that can survive on the husband's income alone is on the decrease, and in this age of unstable employment, it is too risky to rely on just one breadwinner. Housework is done differently today from the past, too. Families change along with changes in their circumstances.
 そう考える人もいるだろう。だが、難しい。夫の収入だけで暮らせる世帯は減っているし、雇用が不安定なこの時代、「大黒柱」1本に頼るのは危うい。家事の仕方も昔とは違う。環境が変われば家族は変わる。

We already know that the changes cannot be stopped.
 変化をとめられないことは、すでに実証済みだ。

When the government declared "the first year of the welfare society" in 1973, the oil crisis that occurred that year aggravated the nation's fiscal problems. This gave rise to the concept of the "Japanese-style welfare society." The argument then was that Europe's generous welfare handouts took away people's incentive to work, whereas the Japanese spirit of self-help and reliance on one's family, not on government handouts, was truly a virtue.
 1973年の「福祉元年」宣言もつかの間、同じ年に石油危機に見舞われ、財政の悪化が進んだ。そこに登場したのが「日本型福祉社会」論だ。欧州で、手厚い福祉が勤労意欲を減退させたなどと批判し、自助や家族の支えあいこそ日本の「醇風美俗(じゅんぷうびぞく)」だと唱えた。

The Liberal Democratic Party regime of the time took advantage of this argument to curb welfare spending and proceeded to reward households with wives who stayed at home or worked only very little to shoulder burdens of caring for children and elderly parents. Specifically, the government created a system whereby women, who are married to full-time company employees and earn less than a certain level of income themselves, are qualified for old-age pensions of their own without having to pay premiums.
 自民党政権は、これを論拠に福祉を削り、負担を引き受ける主婦の優遇策を進めた。代表例が、会社員の夫を持つ主婦は、収入が低ければ保険料を払わずに年金を受け取れる制度だ。

But even this system did not stop the number of dual-income households from growing. And ironically, although it was designed to benefit low-income married women, the system had the effect of encouraging part-time workers to keep their wage levels low. This became one of the causes of the significant wage gaps that exist today. The Abe administration is currently trying to review this "Japan-style" setup by encouraging women's "active participation" in society.
 それでも共働きは広がった。収入が低い主婦を優遇する制度は低賃金労働を誘い、賃金格差の一因となった。安倍政権はいま「女性の活躍」を掲げ、こうした「日本型」の施策の見直しにとりくむ。

Outside Japan, conspicuous drops in birthrates can be found in countries such as Italy and Spain where people rely on their families for the help they need. It is only natural that when families become overburdened, people hesitate to have children.
 世界をみても、イタリアやスペインなど、家族の力に頼る国々で少子化が顕著だと指摘される。家族に負担がかかりすぎると、家族をつくることをためらうのは、当然の帰結だろう。

SUPPORTING THE NEXT GENERATION
■支える世代を支える

The burden on families will grow even further in the days ahead. In the past, there were multiple working-age people financially supporting one senior citizen under the welfare system. But the nation is fast transforming into a "piggyback" society where there will be only one working-age citizen supporting a senior citizen.
 これから、家族の負担はもっと重くなる。日本は、多くの現役世代で1人のお年寄りを支えた「胴上げ型社会」から、1人で1人を支える「肩車型社会」へと突き進んでいる。

Will the working-age people be able to bear their tax and insurance premium burdens? Will more people be forced to give up work or motherhood in order to care for their elderly parents or relatives? Something must be done to protect both the younger and older generations from collapse.
 現役世代は、税や保険料の重さに耐えられるか。親族の介護のため、仕事や出産を諦める人が増えないか。共倒れを防ぐ工夫が要る。

For one, it is vital to ensure that people will be able to function to their full capacity.
 第一に、人の力を最大限生かせる仕組みである。

This calls for a system that will allow people to work flexibly while caring for their children or elderly family members.
 たとえば、介護や子育てなどの事情に応じて柔軟に働ける制度だ。

In the Netherlands, workers are entitled to demand shorter or longer working hours according to their needs, and employers are forbidden to unfavorably treat workers because of shorter working hours. As a result, the employment rate and birthrate have gone up.
オランダでは労働者が労働時間の短縮や延長を求める権利を定め、短いからといって待遇に差をつけることを禁じた。就業率も出生率も上昇した。

Secondly, it is necessary to provide support to the younger generation that supports the elderly population.
 第二に、お年寄りを支え続けるためにも、「支える世代を支える」ことである。

The three reports from the panels of experts propose that the nation's social security system, which is currently weighted heavily in favor of the elderly, should be revised to take the needs of the younger generation into consideration. Seniors in difficult financial circumstances obviously need help, but the needs of the younger generation cannot be ignored any longer.
 三つの報告は、高齢者に偏る社会保障を見直し、子育て支援などに振り向けよと唱える。貧しいお年寄りへの配慮が前提だが、避けてはいられまい。

The report by the JPC went one step further. Noting that the terminally ill who are no longer able to eat on their own are often fed from a tube, the report urged earnest discussion of issues related to terminal care to explore desirable forms of end-of-life treatment.
 日本創成会議は、口から食べることが難しい場合、胃にチューブを通す胃ろうなど「終末期ケア」のあり方も議論すべき時期だ、と踏み込んだ。人生の最後の時期をどのように過ごすのが幸せなのか、議論を促した。

We are born, and we will all eventually die someday.
 生まれる。死ぬ。

The nation's shrinking population forces us to face life squarely and reconsider how we live. And we cannot move forward unless the entire society engages in discussion.
 人口減少は私たちに、命をみつめることを求めている。生き方、暮らし方の再検討を迫っている。社会全体での議論なしには、前に進めない。

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 26
[PR]

by kiyoshimat | 2014-05-30 07:55 | 英字新聞

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