Resolution Calling for a Society in which Young People can See Hope for the Future
The adolescent period is an irreplaceable time leading into adulthood in which persons make numerous choices for their lives ahead through trial and error reflecting their abundant individuality, where and how they should develop their identities, receive higher education, make career choices, and do many other things. It is also the time when they start to participate in society as a fully-functioning member of a democracy.
However in Japan, there is a high correlation between educational status and household income, and available educational options differ depending on the financial resources of the “family they were born into.” More than a few young people in Japan give up on pursuing further education due to the surge of school expenses required for attaining higher education. Further, the increasingly deregulated labor market does not allow them to seek the career they are most suited to through a process of trial and error or even by getting a second chance. Moreover, there are many young people in Japan who work as non-regular employees at low wages for an unstable employment period. For these people, it is rare to get an opportunity to receive professional training and this makes it even more difficult to escape from such unstable employment situation. For young people, it is becoming more and more difficult to even leave home and live an independent life because of high housing expenses. Getting married and having children also tends to be quite a risky option for them considering the insufficient parental support they are provided with. Public expenditure for educational institutions in Japan as a ratio of GDP are at the lowest level among the members of the OECD. Further, the ratio to GDP of public expenditure on family relationship spending (such as family allowances, maternal and childcare leave benefits, childcare and pre-school training, and other cash expenditures including those for in-kind benefits) is only about one third of that seen in the United Kingdom and France etc. This is a clear indication that the support provided to youth in Japan is quite limited and the social structure is not intended to equally allow young people life choices to achieve self-fulfillment. Some have pointed out that they tend to lose their willingness to proactively make moves to transform themselves in this society where they cannot live the way they want.
According to national surveys conducted in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Sweden, South Korea and Japan, it is Japan that has the largest number of young people who are not satisfied with or feel depressed about their workplaces and themselves, and Japan also has the lowest number of young people who think that they can change society through participating therein. In addition, only about 10 percent of young people in Japan answered that they “feel hopeful” about the future, while 40 to 50 percent answered so in most other countries.
The background underlying this situation surrounding young people in Japan may include the policy trend toward “self-responsibility.” In recent years, there has been a shift in philosophy under the Japanese social security system to the effect that social security costs can be reduced by emphasizing self-reliance and mutual help. This has been coupled with a trend in the labor market towards encouraging deregulation which causes an even further intensification of free competition.
In Japanese society where such tendencies have increased, large numbers of young people have come to the conclusion that they should get over their difficulties in living their lives and the uncertainty surrounding their futures based solely on their own responsibilities, and even seem to have reconciled themselves to the fact that they cannot make any changes anyway.
It is imperative that such situation not be ignored in light of right to the pursuit of happiness which needs to be respected to the greatest extent possible based on the principle of respect for individual dignity as stated in Article 13 of the Constitution, as well as the guarantee of the right to life under Article 25 of the Constitution. Given this, the current situation can also be said to be a crisis for a democratic society.
The JFBA therefore calls upon the national and local governments to implement the following measures toward realizing a society in which all young people are granted equal opportunities to determine their lives and choose the ways in which they live their lives by themselves, whereby they can live with a sense of hope when looking toward the future and with the confidence that a second chance will be ensured for them anytime.
1. Social security, decent work and equal distribution based on the principle of universality
(1) In order to improve the current situations faced by young people, it is necessary to provide a level playing field which enables every young person to learn, work and establish a livelihood through trial and error without being affected by factors outside their influence such as the financial resources of the “family they were born into” or their gender, by: (i) providing fee-free tuition from pre-school/nursery schools through high school; (ii) expanding relevant benefits such as maternity and childcare leave benefits and family allowances; (iii) achieving a minimum wage that can guarantee a decent standard of living, and achieving equal pay for equal work; (iv) guaranteeing income security to the unemployed, and drastically improving the vocational training system; and (v) increasing the levels of public housing to be provided beyond low-income groups, and newly creating a system to subsidize housing rents.
(2) It is desirable to create a system which enables every young person to feel hopeful about the present and the future, especially in order to improve the situation wherein young people refrain from using various services and social security systems due to being unable to afford to pay the requisite insurance premiums or co-payments. This should be achieved by introducing: (i) taxpayer-funded healthcare, nursing-care services and welfare services for persons with disabilities, which does not require a bill to be paid at the time of receiving such services; and (ii) a taxpayer-funded pension system which guarantees every citizen a minimum pension to enable them to maintain a level of lifestyle that guarantees the individual dignity.
2. Securing financial resources by assuming collective responsibilities and improving the tax system
The aforementioned labor environment and social security system which are intended to uphold the dignity of young people can also be applied to provide support across all generations. In order to achieve this aim, it is essential to secure financial resources by implementing the following measures based on the national consensus on the sharing of the tax burden to support one another, which can be promoted by enhancing a social security system that is not swayed by factors that people have no influence over, such as the financial resources of the “family they were born into” or their gender.
(1) With respect to income and corporate taxes, in light of the importance of the income redistribution function achieved through the taxation and social security systems, and the need to secure substantial equality based on the principle of the ability to pay, it is necessary to further equalize the tax burden by reviewing various forms of preferential taxation that are currently applied to major companies and investors. On the other hand, the tax-free threshold should be set by making it a principle to apply a tax exemption for the costs needed to maintain a minimum standard of living.
(2) Looking at the regressive nature of consumption tax, wherein the tax burden is heavier for lower income earners, it is necessary to reduce the negative effects of such nature by way of revising the components of tax revenue and budget allocations.
(3) It is necessary to rectify the situation in which the social security system is largely financed by social insurance premiums, and to strengthen the tax resources bolstering the social security system.
(4) It is essential to take effective measures against tax havens in order to prevent an outflow of tax revenue and secure stable revenue sources, and such measures should be strengthened by working with other countries.
The JFBA is determined to offer environments and opportunities for young people to express their opinions as members of society who are interested in and have sovereign rights in the policy-making process so that they can join the discussion on the taxation system, social security system, labor legislation, etc. In addition, in order to develop a society where young people can live with hope about the present and the future, it is the JFBA’s resolve to help achieve this aim by formulating a grand design for the social security system, including budget allocations for its realization and a proposal for how best to obtain the requisite financial resources. In this regard, the JFBA will also use its efforts to actively participate in citizen debates and make policy recommendations to the government to help bring about such a society, while also ensuring that attorneys will be actively involved in the administrative procedures across various relevant fields in the process toward realizing such goal.
October 5, 2018
Japan Federation of Bar Associations