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Report by young ministry staff calling for social security reform sparks debate online

The report presented by a group of young Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry employees is shown in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on May 23, 2017. (Mainichi)

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) released a report on its website on May 18 compiled by its young employees calling for reform of the social security system, sparking heated debate on social media, it has been learned.

    The report titled "Concerned individuals and a paralyzed country: How do we continue to move forward in an unprecedented era?" calls for an end to the social security system where the young support the old. The report is a summary of an interview survey of university scholars and other experts starting from August 2016 conducted by 30 METI employees in their 20s and 30s and their own conclusions based on their discussions.

    The summary purports that the current system that presupposes a "household of a businessman and a housewife living on a pension after retirement" was based on the idealized life path of people in the Showa era and is no longer applicable to the reality of current society. Even though healthy life expectancy for the elderly has improved, those over the age of 65 are still uniformly made to retire and live off their pensions, while young workers are told that child poverty and gaps in educational opportunities are "their own responsibility." The report points out that there are not enough support systems in place for struggling young people.

    Out of a limited government budget, spending for supporting the current working generation is no more than one-fifth of that set aside for the elderly, and the report claims that "vested interests and stereotypes are preventing reform" of the system. "There is a need for the elderly to support the working generation rather than be supported by them," says the report, calling for radical reform to the system that has until now been a taboo topic.

    Specifically, the summary suggests abolishing the system where the appropriation of pension funds is decided exclusively by age, and individuals who are healthy and wish to continue working should be allowed to do so to secure an income. Additionally, investment in children and education should hold the highest government priority, and there is a need to revise the educational curriculum in schools without being bound by the current educational system. With the age of the baby-boomer generation set to surpass 75 in 2025, the report stresses that finishing reforms before then is extremely crucial.

    The contents of the summary have become a hot topic on social media platforms such as Twitter. While some write that "having young bureaucrats with awareness of social problems" gives them hope, others say "writing that we should 'make the elderly work until they can't work anymore' is appalling," and "children and the elderly are both vulnerable members of society. Setting up one as evil and attacking it is unforgiveable."

    Government reports of this kind have rarely become the topic of online discussion, and a METI representative commented, "I'm looking forward to this report sparking wider debate."

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