By Etsuo Kono / Japan News Staff WriterWhat should Japan do to prepare for a society of increasing longevity, in which 100-year lives will no longer be unusual? London Business School Prof. Lynda Gratton, a member of a Japanese government council on that topic, made three recommendations for the redesign of life in an interview with The Japan News on Tuesday.
In a society where people live longer lives, it seems they will have to work longer than they do today. Gratton focused on the need to change the three conventional stages of life — full-time education, full-time work and full-time retirement — and made proposals relevant to that idea.
The council of which Gratton is a member discusses specific measures for “a revolution in human resources development,” a new key policy of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. She said she had met with Abe for 45 minutes in a private meeting and gave a 20-minute presentation at the first meeting of the council on Monday.
In the interview, she first stressed her idea that people need new plans based on a so-called multistage life in which, for example, workers choose not to stay at the same company they joined when they were young, but to go back to university for fresh education.
She pointed to the inevitability of people spending more years at work and stressed the necessity for them to redesign their lives. “If you live to 100, stopping work at the age of 60 or 65 is ridiculous. People will be working into their 70s or 80s,” she said.
Gratton’s second idea, regarding family relationships, is that a dual-career household in which a man and woman both share the responsibility for creating the wealth of the family makes more sense than a case in which one person financially supports the whole family. One person can be in education while the other one works and then they can switch roles, Gratton said, illustrating the idea with the metaphor of a seesaw. A relationship built on equality in terms of income is much more sustainable.
However, she pointed out a problem in Japanese society: The rate of workforce participation by women is relatively low compared with other developed countries. She advised: “It’s absolutely crucial that Japanese society gives women an opportunity to have a career. They should not have to choose between having children and having a career. We have to change the culture of Japanese companies.”
She said that companies should take more measures to actively promote women and that the government should focus on improving the child care system so that mothers can leave their children without anxiety.
Third and finally, she pointed out the importance of lifelong learning. In the midst of high-speed technological innovation, workers should gain additional skills through reeducation. Therefore, “If you want somebody to work into their 70s or 80s and keep vitality, then you have to give them an opportunity to do different things,” she said.
“People are looking to Japan to lead the world in thinking about an aging society,” she said.
The government will face inequality issues in a society of longer-lived people. Those with lower lifetime income will be at a disadvantage when it comes to the flexibility and skills needed to redesign their life. “Helping people on lower incomes to retrain, relearn and re-skill has to be a major priority in a government,” she stressed.Speech