"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

[Date] March 29, 2016
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]


PRIME MINISTER ABE: Today, the budget for fiscal 2016 was passed. Through this budget, new measures will be launched towards bringing about a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged.

The benefits paid to people taking nursing care leave will be raised from 40 percent to 67 percent of their wages. By the early years of the 2020’s, we will prepare nursing care arrangements for 500,000 people and further accelerate measures aiming at the target of ensuring 250,000 nursing care providers.

It is possible to continue to work while providing nursing care. The budget for fiscal 2016 is a budget that takes a major step forward towards eliminating the need to leave one’s job to provide nursing care.

When small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro enterprises make capital investments towards growth, their property taxes will be reduced by half. We will also set in motion a new system that will utilize grants with a high degree of flexibility to encourage local authorities that are taking on the vitalization of their own local economies through their own ideas.

We will fan out the warm breeze of Abenomics to reach every corner of the country. The fiscal 2016 budget is one that ensures a robust economy as we work towards a 600 trillion yen GDP, Japan’s largest in the post-war era.

We will provide assistance of 300,000 yen to people who receive fertility treatment for the first time in the hope of having a child. This corresponds to roughly 100 percent of the medical treatment costs.

Over the past three years, we have prepared childcare arrangements for 300,000 children, a pace that is more than double that of the DPJ-led administrations. In fiscal 2016 as well we will maintain this pace to create still further childcare arrangements for no less than 100,000 children. We will also expand childcare for children who have become sick.

We will create a society in which people can bear and raise children with peace of mind.

The fiscal 2016 budget is a budget that will fire a powerful arrow at the target of raising the birthrate to 1.8 children per woman, the level the public has indicated as desirable.

We will move forward further in making nursery education free of charge. For low-income households, the second child will be charged half the normal rate and subsequent children will attend without charge. We will double the additional childcare allowance provided to single-parent families. This increase in the allowance comes for the first time in 36 years in the case of the second child and for the first time in 22 years for subsequent children.

We will create a society in which all children can work hard towards their dreams regardless of their family’s economic circumstances. That is what the fiscal 2016 budget aims to achieve.

Through three years of Abenomics, gross national income has increased by close to 40 trillion yen and national tax revenues have increased by 15 trillion yen.

Making use of these fruits of Abenomics, we will make a powerful start in order to carve out an era in which all citizens are dynamically engaged, where anyone can be active in society. That is the fiscal 2016 budget that was just passed today.

No one else will create the future of Japan. It is only we ourselves who will do so. We will create a society in which we put the brakes on the trend towards an aging society and falling birthrate and all people are able to feel their purpose in life. This is a common goal that supersedes differences in standpoints and something we should bring into reality by working together.

During the Diet deliberations on the draft budget, we received many constructive views from the members of not only the ruling parties but also the opposition parties.

Moreover, I have built up dialogues over the past half a year.

I have had the opportunity to listen directly to the voices of people in various circumstances, including young people in their twenties, mothers raising children, people providing nursing care, the elderly, people with intractable illnesses or disabilities, and people working as part-timers or as contract employees.

Once again I felt very acutely the reality that various walls were standing in the way of people who had something they want to pursue -- the culture in which people newly graduated from school are preferred during job hunting, the wall that prevents people from taking on challenges a second time, the wall of reconciling child-rearing or nursing care with the rest of one’s life, and the wall of compulsory retirement at a certain age, or the wall of age itself.

We will clear these walls away one by one. We will formulate the Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens.

The greatest challenge lies is reforming ways of working.

We must dramatically shift the work system and our social mindset so that diverse ways of working become possible. We will review regulations on overtime work and rectify the problems of working long hours and working too much.

In order to create a society in which people are able to make second attempts, we will ensure equal treatment that pays no heed to the form of employment one has, whether permanent or non-permanent. In addition, we intend to take steps towards making equal pay for equal work a reality.

In order to bring about “a society in which people can be active their entire lives,” it is necessary to prepare an environment for raising the retirement age and extending employment beyond the age of retirement as well as to enhance job seeking support for elderly people who wish to work.

We will build a society overflowing with opportunities for young people. We will undertake a far-reaching expansion of assistance to households with multiple children and assistance for child-rearing and education.

We must make it possible to go on to university or specialized training schools for anyone who wishes, regardless of family economic circumstances. This year we began a new system under which we will provide 50,000 yen in living expenses, in addition to an amount equivalent to monthly rent, to children who were raised in childcare institutions or by foster parents when they go on to tertiary education. They are exempt from having to repay this money if after graduation they continue to be employed for five years. We will reliably extend a helping hand to children who are in truly severe circumstances through this support in the form of benefits that do not need to be repaid.

Moreover, we will as quickly as possible enable all children needing them to receive no-interest education loans. We will also make arrangements to avoid excessive burdens on people by making the amount to be repaid vary with the person’s level of income after graduating.

We will further accelerate the preparation of nursing care and child care arrangements in order to create a society in which it is possible to continue working while providing nursing care or raising a child. We will aim to eliminate childcare waiting lists for not only preschool children but also elementary school children needing afterschool care.

The other day I spoke with a student enrolled at a professional school who aims to become a nursing care worker.

As we ended our chat Mr. Kogane wrapped up by saying, “I feel great expectations as I begin working in nursing care from April.”

“There are a large number of highly motivated people working in nursing care for many years.” “I want the public to correctly appreciate nursing care jobs as excellent jobs that are really worth doing.”

“And, I hope that the number of people actively aiming to work in nursing care increases by as much as possible.”

We must together as a nation encourage people who have chosen the path of a nursing care or childcare provider feeling a strong sense of mission and great hopes. We will make proper efforts towards improving the treatment of these workers while creating a structure by which salaries rise with experience. In addition, by making use of childcare assistants and other means, we will decrease the burdens borne by the workers while also enhancing the quality.

We hope to compile in May bold and integrated policies that look ten years into the future and go beyond the ideas held until now, as the Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens.

I have until now repeatedly stated that the greatest measure to address the economy would be the early passage of the fiscal 2016 budget.

It will be necessary to shift this budget into execution at an early time in order to bring it to fruition. I will immediately instruct the Finance Minister to begin implementing at an accelerated pace those areas that can already be undertaken.

In this year’s spring labor offensive, a large number of companies conducted across-the-board pay increases for the third consecutive year. We have now had the highest level of wage increases since the 21st century began for three years running -- something unachievable not only in the days of the DPJ-led administrations, but also during the entire decade prior.

Moreover, according to a survey by RENGO, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, this year the level of wage increases was higher for non-permanent workers than for permanent employees. This trend towards raises in base pay is rapidly expanding in range.

The ratio of job offers to job seekers is at the highest level in 24 years. Looking at employment numbers broken down geographically, we see that the number of offers of employment for every person seeking work exceeds 1.0 in 46 of the 47 prefectures. We have now reached a state at which there is more than one job available for every person seeking one.

Against this backdrop, last year the number of people hired for permanent positions shifted into an increase for the first time in eight years, with 260,000 more permanent workers hired. There had been some criticism that employment gains were seen only in non-permanent workers, but last year the increase in permanent workers surpassed the increase in non-permanent workers. This is an achievement not seen for 21 years.

Japan’s employment and income environments are continuing to improve smoothly and I believe that there has been no change in the trend towards recovery in the Japanese economy.

At the same time, since the beginning of the year, markets have fluctuated dramatically at a global level, including in Japan, against a background of concerns about the slowdown in the Chinese economy and the drop in crude oil prices, among other matters. It is also a fact that the unpredictability of the global economy is increasing.

At the G20 meeting held last month as well, the G20 members agreed on the understanding that “downward risks and vulnerability have risen” in the global economy.

It is certain that the current economic situation will be among the most important topics at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit in May as well.

Right now I am listening directly to eminent persons from within Japan and abroad, including Professor Joseph Stiglitz and Professor Paul Krugman, both Nobel laureates in economics, about the current state of global monetary economics and measures that should be taken. We have been engaged in frank exchanges of views.

In order to bring about sustained and robust growth in the global economy, there is now a need for policy coordination within the G7. The entire world is looking at the direction the G7 Ise-Shima Summit will take. And I feel great expectations towards Japan as the G7 chair.

I will hold as many summit meetings as possible with global leaders during my visit to Washington, D.C. beginning tomorrow, and I intend to hold candid discussions regarding the current economic situation. I would also like to make use of this opportunity to arrange a setting where I can exchange views with distinguished eminent persons who are exceptionally knowledgeable about international finance and economy.

Based on these various discussions, I intend to firmly demonstrate leadership as the G7 chair in steering the global economy, which has entered into a new phase.

With that, I will conclude my opening statement.


REPORTER (IWATA, TBS): I am Iwata with TBS, one of the coordinators of the press club.

With the passage of the fiscal 2016 budget, does the Abe Cabinet have any intention to compile a set of further economic countermeasures? If so, please share your thoughts regarding the timing and scale, as well as your comments on formulating a supplementary budget.

In addition, as for raising the consumption tax rate to 10 percent in April 2017, within the LDP some view postponing the increase as acceptable as a measure to stimulate the economy. Some also anticipate a double election for both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, taking that as a point at issue. At the same time some believe the tax rate should be raised as scheduled to ensure stable revenue for social security. Mr. Prime Minister, how and by when do you plan to take a decision on whether or not to increase the consumption tax rate? I would also like to know your thoughts regarding a double election in both Houses of the Diet.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I have said this repeatedly until now, but the early passage of the fiscal 2016 budget is itself the most important measure for stimulating the economy. Now the budget has been passed, thanks to the efforts of everyone involved. I will give instructions to the Finance Minister so that the contents can be put into implementation at the earliest possible time in order to generate results.

Since the change in government, we have now come to a juncture where we will pull out of deflation with just a bit more effort. In order for us to now put a halt to the shift towards an aging society with few children and build a society in which everyone feels a purpose in life, we will urgently compile the Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens. I intend to forge the future of Japan together with the Japanese people, working towards the new goals of a 600 trillion yen GDP, a birthrate at the level desired by the public, namely 1.8 children per woman, and eliminating the need for people to leave their jobs in order to provide nursing care.

The G7 Summit will be held in Ise-Shima in May this year. Against the backdrop of calls for policy coordination within the G7, Japan must uphold its responsibilities as the G7 Chair.

I want to discuss with world leaders what kind of contribution Japan should make going forward in order to bring about sustained and vigorous growth in the global economy. I intend to get a clear view of that through truly in-depth discussions with world leaders.

As for next April’s increase in the consumption tax rate to 10 percent, I have already said this several times at the Diet, but in order to properly pass down to the next generation one of the best social security systems in the world, and also in order to ensure trust from the markets and the international community, there has been no change in my intention to raise the tax rate on schedule next year unless a situation like the Lehman crisis or a major earthquake arises. In addition, I have given no thought whatsoever to dissolving the House of Representatives.

REPORTER (TANAKA, MAINICHI SHIMBUN): I am Tanaka with the Mainichi Shimbun, one of the coordinators of the press club.

The new security legislation took effect today. Relatively high-risk duties such as "kaketsuke-keigo" (coming to the aid of a geographically distant unit or personnel under attack) or protecting U.S. vessels have in many cases been postponed until after the summer. Mr. Prime Minister, how do you view the time lag that has arisen between the entry of the law into force and the execution of the core missions, and what are your thoughts regarding the prospects for approximately when such activities will begin to be carried out?

Also, some in the opposition parties have indicated that this time lag is to ensure that things related to this security legislation do not affect the House of Councillors election. I would like to hear your reaction to that.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. I think many in the general public continue to feel that very keenly this year. In the current global context in which no country can secure its own security only by itself, this legislation truly enhances deterrence, and that in turn prevents war. This legislation also resolutely secures the lives of the Japanese people and at the same time fulfills the responsibility of handing down to the next generation a Japan and a region that are peaceful and prosperous. An alliance in which each side can provide assistance to the other in order to defend Japan is naturally going to strengthen our bonds of friendship. There can be no doubt that deterrence will be enhanced through an alliance having strong bonds. The other day when North Korea launched a ballistic missile, our cooperation in terms of thoroughly sharing information between Japan and the U.S. and establishing a system made remarkable progress compared to what existed previously. Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, also made the very same comment. This shows that the bond of the alliance in which each side can truly provide assistance for the other has strengthened.

At the same time, the Self-Defense Forces were indeed invested with a new duty today through the law’s entry into force. If a duty is not conferred upon the SDF by law, then the SDF cannot conduct training. In order for the SDF to appropriately execute its new duties, including "kaketsuke-keigo" (coming to the aid of a geographically distant unit or personnel under attack), while ensuring safety, we must make every possible preparation for any circumstances and make thoroughgoing preparations over time, including education and training. This is natural for security-related activities in the field and it would not do to speed that up because of political considerations. Therefore, as a matter of course, we will begin careful preparations from today. This will take a bit of time, so naturally this is not by any means a case of postponing the matter because there will or will not be a House of Councillors election. Such criticisms are entirely off the mark and I believe those comments fail to understand the actual situation in the field. Today is indeed the start of thorough preparations and related training in order to ensure security and protect Japan.

REPORTER (HARA, NHK): I am Hara with NHK.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have been working to increase wages and other such areas in your efforts to revive the Japanese economy, but weaknesses can be seen in personal consumption and domestic demand. What do you consider to be the factors behind this -- what have you analyzed those factors to be? Also, what kinds of measures do you consider to be important in expanding that domestic demand and personal consumption in the future?

Additionally, within the ruling parties there has been some discussion on possibly postponing the consumption tax rate increase. Some have pointed out that if you were to put off that increase, the enhancement of social security would also be delayed, unease over the future would increase, and people would tighten their purse strings even further. How do you view these points that have been made?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: At this juncture, personal consumption has flattened off on the whole, because no progress can be found in the consumer mindset amidst increasing unpredictability within the global economy. For that reason, I believe that it is necessary to bring about a virtuous cycle between growth and distribution, in which positive impacts are exerted on consumption and other areas and in turn the economy grows by taking advantage of the fruits of Abenomics to build the foundation for a society in which people can feel at ease.

We must spare no effort to make that a reality. In May we will compile the Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens, in which I intend for us to set forth a course forward towards a 600 trillion yen economy as well as a menu of assistance for child-rearing and for nursing care.

In addition, in my view it is important for people to have an acute sense that their wages will keep rising. Thanks to the fact that companies generated their highest levels of profits in history, in this year’s spring labor offensive, the highest level of wage increases since the beginning of the 21st century were seen for the third year in a row. Some companies have also given across-the-board pay increases for three years running. It is also a fact that until the Abe administration took office, the very expression “across-the-board pay raise” was already long forgotten, and a bank in my home region and other businesses found themselves lacking the software to do an across-the-board pay hike. Therefore, the fact that this year’s across-the-board pay raises are slightly less than those of last year is eclipsed by the fact that these pay hikes have materialized three years running. In addition, I would like people to take full note that for three years in a row the level of wage increases has been a level never achieved during the previous 15 years. Moreover, according to a survey conducted by RENGO, this year the level of wage hikes for non-regular employees surpassed the level for regular employees, thereby moving towards truly rectifying the disparity. To me this seems to be a case of the disparity being rectified not by the higher-earning group being made to lose ground, but rather the non-regular employees gaining ground. Making this trend carry on reliably and further strengthening it will, I believe, lead to consumption picking up.

And, regarding the increase in the consumption tax rate to 10 percent in April 2017, while it is quite difficult to respond to your hypothetical question about postponing the increase, as I mentioned just a moment ago, barring circumstances at the level of the Lehman crisis or a major earthquake disaster, I intend to raise the tax rate on schedule.

REPORTER (REYNOLDS, BLOOMBERG NEWS): I am Reynolds with Bloomberg News.

The other day, Donald Trump stated in a newspaper interview that unless Japan dramatically expands its Host Nation Support, he would perhaps have the U.S. Forces, Japan withdrawn, and he also said that he would be open to Japan acquiring nuclear weapons. I would like to hear your views on this kind of thinking.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: As the U.S. presidential election will greatly impact Japan as well as other countries around the world, I am paying attention to how it is developing.

However, I would like to refrain from stating my opinion or making any comments on individual comments made by the candidates in the election. Also, I do not think it would be appropriate to comment on them.

Regardless of who becomes the next president of the United States, the Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy. Moreover there will be no change in our close cooperation with the United States for the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and the world. Those are my thoughts on that matter.

REPORTER (NISHIGAKI, FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK): I am Nishigaki, with the Fuji Television Network. Thank you for taking my question.

I would like to ask about the issue of childcare waiting lists. Mr. Prime Minister, just now you mentioned your intention to aim to prepare childcare arrangements for 500,000 children and said you would frontload the execution of the budget to the greatest possible extent. However, we are coming up to the beginning of the new fiscal year, and for those parents who are unable to find a place to take care of their children, I think such openings will be the result of the government’s efforts, and yet, these kinds of budgetary provisions alone will not bring this to fruition. It seems you will not be able to carry this out without the cooperation of the local authorities, even if you execute the budget provisions at an early time. I would like to know your thoughts on what kind of leadership and what kinds of measures you plan to undertake as Prime Minister to make the process more thoroughgoing from here on.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: As I mentioned earlier, the Abe administration has been preparing childcare arrangements at twice the speed as under the DPJ-led administrations. However, at the same time, as we set about advancing the creation of a society in which women shine, a large number of women -- more than 900,000 of them -- have newly begun employment. And then in April 2015, we made it possible for people to apply for nursery care even if the applicant was still in the process of applying for a job and even if there were other relatives living with the applicant. In other words, we expanded and also eased the criteria for people who apply. For that reason and more, it is a fact that the number of applications rose dramatically.

We are now making further efforts so that people are able to receive nursery services that correspond to their wishes, such as small-scale childcare with a family atmosphere or childcare provided on the premises of businesses, rather than only at the authorized daycare facilities we have had until now. As I also mentioned earlier, we intend to secure childcare places for another 500,000 children and we will be making our greatest possible efforts towards that goal.

In addition, in the current Diet session, we have again received various opinions and proposals from the ruling and opposition parties, and we intend to address this matter by taking such proposals into careful consideration. But I believe this is a matter that cannot be addressed by the national government alone, as your question stated. Certainly, childcare is a local matter and local authorities are the main actors in its administration. The national government intends to reinforce measures in a format that provides support for the local authorities as we work to amply understand the issues local governments face. It is certainly the case that we cannot move forward unless local authorities and the national government work in solid cooperation with each other, so I intend for us to cooperate thoroughly. The issue of childcare waiting lists varies with each and every local area. I would like to come to a close mutual understanding with those local authorities that are facing a particularly large number of children awaiting childcare and think of measures together with them as we go forward.

Within the Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens to be compiled in May, we intend to target improvements in working conditions in order to ensure an adequate number of childcare providers, as well as various issues to be addressed over the mid to long term. I will work to the utmost of my ability to eliminate childcare waiting lists and bring about a society in which people can bear and raise children with peace of mind.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Thank you very much.