Statement by Minister Yasushi Takase
Delegation of Japan
Item 3 (b): Review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups
Commission for Social Development
12 February 2007
My delegation is pleased to participate in the discussion on agenda item 3(b): Review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups. We are encouraged by the fact that in a number of areas of development policy-making, a human-centered approach is being adopted. This is the approach Japan believes should be taken in order to enhance every individual's human security, and Japan has accordingly made it one of the most important goals of the international cooperation in which it engages. My delegation wishes to assure you of its support in promoting social development around the world based on this approach.
My delegation would like to now share with you some of Japan's efforts and experiences with the issues of older and disabled persons and youth, to all of which Japan attaches great importance.
Last year, this Commission, in its resolution 44/1, outlined specific modalities for the first review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. In accordance with that resolution, the Government of Japan conducted the initial identification of actions which it has taken since the Second World Assembly in 2002, compiled them in a report and distributed it to the member States of this Commission. As Japan is one of the fastest aging countries in the world, it believes that sharing its experiences would be useful to other member States.
In Japan, the percentage of the population over 65 years old already exceeded 20 percent last year. The problems of an aging society, coupled with a declining birth rate, are consequently of great concern.
Japan formulated the General Principles Concerning Measures for the Aging Society in December 2001 as a fundamental and comprehensive set of guidelines for the government to follow. Based on the ideas on an aging society laid out in the General Principles, measures are being developed by sector, such as "Work and Income," "Health and Welfare," "Learning and Social Participation," and "Living Environment." I would like to share with you just a few measures from the report, presenting them on the basis of the issues identified in the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging.
With regard to issue 2 "work and the aging labor force," under the first priority direction of, "older persons and development," in order to secure equal employment opportunities for all, regardless of age, my government has been making efforts to have age restrictions on employment eased, especially through administrative guidance to public employment agencies. In addition, a subsidy is given to employers instituting a system that permits employees to continue working after their retirement or those extending the retirement age, and also to employers whose workforce exceeds a fixed proportion of elderly workers. This subsidy has been successful in promoting the continuous employment system and giving it a place in the public consciousness.
With regard to the issues of "intergenerational solidarity" and "income security, social protection/social security and poverty prevention," in order to establish a sustainable and dependable pension program in an environment in which the number of elderly persons is increasing and the birthrate is declining more and more rapidly, and also in order to secure inter- and intra-generational fairness in light of the need to ensure that future workers are not unduly burdened, the Japanese Diet introduced amendments to the National Pension Law which came into force in June 2004. As is pointed out in paragraph 18 of the report of the Secretary-General, "Major developments in the area of ageing since the Second World Assembly on Ageing," this legislation includes indexing mechanisms that take into account changes in the old-age dependency ratio.
Regarding the issue of "care and support for caregivers," under the third priority direction, "ensuring enabling and supportive environments," Japan established the Long-Term Care Insurance System in 2000, in response to the rapid aging of its population. This was an effort to reorganize the way care was provided to older people. Integrating welfare and medical care, this was to be an accessible, fair and effective system of social security that would also be sustainable. In 2005, the system was further revised to put more emphasis on preventive aspects in order to enhance its sustainability.
Although this is our initial stock-taking, Japan intends to participate actively in the review and appraisal exercises of the Commission, including the regional activities to take place later this year.
Concerning the issue of persons with disabilities, the Government of Japan welcomed the unanimous adoption of the draft Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol by the General Assembly last December. Japan has participated actively in the negotiation process since the first Ad Hoc Committee met in July 2002. That process coincided with a domestic debate on this subject in Japan, and gave it important impetus. While the principle of equality before the law is enshrined in our Constitution, the Basic Law for Persons with Disabilities was amended in May 2004 to spell out for the first time in specific laws, a prohibition on discrimination on the basis of disability. And in the last two years, several other laws were amended to promote greater independence for persons with disabilities and more active participation in the community, especially in the fields of employment, welfare services, education, and accessibility of public facilities and transportation.
In order to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities, it is most important to move forward with the implementation of the Convention. The Government of Japan will give earnest consideration to the relevant issues to its signature and ratification of that instrument.
Finally, Mr. Chairperson, with regard to the issues confronting youth, we believe that while young people can make an important contribution to sustainable economic growth and social development, it is also true that the human dignity of young people is enhanced through employment. Japan is committed to supporting youth in developing countries, especially socially vulnerable women, by increasing employment opportunities and providing technical education and vocational training.
Based on the idea that developing human resources is directly tied to successful nation-building, Japan extends assistance to young people in developing countries, focusing on improving the quality of basic and higher education as well as vocational training, with particular attention to women and girls. In the past ten years, Japan provided more than 10 billion dollars in official development assistance in the area of education.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan has been providing assistance for the development of human resources for more than thirty years, in cooperation with the ILO. In December 2004, in collaboration with the ILO and the United Nations University, the Government of Japan organized the "Symposium on Globalization and the future of Youth in Asia," which adopted, as a message Asia was sending the world, the slogan "the young are assets." In the years to come, Japan will continue to provide such support for young people.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairperson, the delegation of Japan wishes to reiterate its sincere hope that the review we conduct will contribute to creating a world where everyone can live better and healthier lives.
I thank you, Mr. Chairperson.
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