Plan for Gender Equality 2000

6. Developing Conditions to Enable Elderly People and Others to live in Peace of Mind

[Basic Direction of Measures]

With Japan facing the full onset of an aging society toward the beginning of the 21st century, it is of the utmost importance for Japan to build a rich, active society supported by a spirit of independence and solidarity, while promoting healthy socioeconomic development. There are far more elderly women than elderly men and the issues confronted by the elderly are largely shaped by women. At present, women assume a larger share of the responsibility for taking care of parents, etc., so the issue of elderly care is a serious one for women.

There are also many women with concerns about economic independence. When men reach their golden years, on the other hand, they often do not find meaning away from the community and their work, and are unable to handle housework and other daily chores. Against this backdrop, it is urgent to create an environment where women and men can lead healthy, economically independent lives as elderly members of society.

Toward this end, a new system of community support for care of the elderly, and the long-term stability of the public welfare system, which is the main source of income guarantee for the elderly, should be ensured. Also, opportunities should be provided and an environment created to enable the elderly and persons with disabilities to maintain integration with society and participate in various ways in accordance with their desires and abilities.

(1) Building a family care system that enables the elderly to live in peace of mind

With the rapid aging of society, care for the elderly has become a serious issue for families and communities. The establishment of measures to address this situation is now a major task. At present, there are already over 2 million elderly, etc., in need of nursing care. By the year 2025, it is estimated that this number will have increased to 5.2 million. Combined with prolonged periods where the elderly are bedridden, these intensified needs for nursing care are expected to result in enormous costs. For this reason, it is essential to build a comprehensive system to guarantee care of the elderly -- one that is supported by society as a whole, not restricted to the families, and in particular the women, who have family members in need of nursing care.

[Concrete Measures]

(a) Promoting health and welfare measures for the elderly

- Strengthen and improve the service base

Steadily promote the New Gold Plan, formulated in 1994 in order to build a system that enables anyone in need of support to conveniently obtain the necessary services on their own. Actively promote the improvement of the service base utilizing various methods, e.g., use of existing resources, and the active introduction of private-sector vitality.

- Enhance home services

Build and enhance the service structure for home care to enable the elderly to live in the home and community where they are used to living, even when they are in need of nursing care, including, for example: 1) home helper services; 2) day services; 3) short stay services; and 4) home-visiting nursing care services. Increase the number of services that are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year -- in terms of home helper services and home-visiting nursing care services.

Make consultation, guidance and assistance conveniently available (nearby) by establishing and enhancing in-home care support centers.

Promote comprehensive home health and medical care by, for example, enhancing and strengthening the function of family doctors and promoting home terminal care and day care.

- Enhance facility services

Establish Special Nursing Homes for the Elderly; health service facilities for the elderly which provide both medical care and living-related services; elderly welfare centers that help those in scarcely populated regions with their daily lives; and, Care Houses that enable the elderly to get by on their own using wheel chairs, etc. to enable the elderly to obtain the appropriate professional service they need when it becomes difficult for them to live at home. Promote the well-planned improvement of sick-bed facilities that include medical care.

Give priority to supporting the establishment of infrastructure that promotes the set up of special small-scale nursing homes for the elderly in large metropolitan areas and less advanced regions.

- Promote private services for the care of the elderly

Set up conditions for the further promotion of private nursing services that are able to meet the diverse needs of the elderly.

(b) Securing nursing personnel

- Promote measures to develop and secure human resources to care for the elderly

Promote comprehensive measures that include the establishment of training facilities, the enhancement of training structures to improve the quality of care, and the improvement of work environments in order to develop and secure the social welfare facility staff, nursing staff, home helpers, public welfare workers and others who provide services to care for the elderly.

Enhance occupational training and professional courses and improve personnel management for those engaged in the care of the elderly. Formulate a system to adjust the supply and demand of those workers which is matched to the supply and demand needs of the labor force as a whole.

(c) Establishing a new nursing system

- Establish a long-term care insurance system

Restructure the current elderly health system and elderly welfare system and create a long-term care insurance system as a mechanism for the integrated, efficient provision of nursing services covering all areas, i.e., health, medical care and welfare.

(d) Establishing social infrastructure conducive to the independence of the elderly

- Establish social infrastructure conducive to the independence of the elderly

Promote the establishment of a base for the development, extension and evaluation of nursing and other equipment to help the elderly live on their own; development of equipment and systems that enable the elderly to easily obtain information; and, construction of social infrastructure conducive to the independence of the elderly, including homes and communities where it is easy for the elderly to live, to enable the elderly to live their daily lives independently and maintain integration with society as long as possible.

Responsible authorities: Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, Ministry of Labor

(2) Enhancing income guarantees for the elderly

[Basic Direction of Measures]

With Japan facing the full onset of an aging society and a reduction in birthrates toward the beginning of the 21st century, there are strong expectations for the public pension system, as the main guarantee of income for the elderly in Japan, to firmly support an integral part of the lives of the elderly. However, the conditions surrounding the pension system (e.g., low birth rates, and low economic growth) are severe. To make the system stable over the long term, maintaining a balance between payments and costs and ensuring future costs are not excessive have become important issues.

Thus, it is necessary to actively provide information on how the system is managed and to make systematic reforms with the consensus of the Japanese people. At the same time, in order to meet various living needs and achieve richer lives for the elderly, there is a need to further spread and develop employees' pension plan funds, the National Pension Fund, and independent pensions, while considering appropriate combinations of those funds with public pensions. Also, to enrich the lives of the elderly, self-help efforts to build assets should be supported.

[Concrete Measures]

- Improve the fairness of the social insurance system

Keep a balance between payments and costs and take necessary measures toward the long-term stable management of the social security system with the full onset of an aging society and the falling birthrate toward the beginning of the 21st century.

- Promote personal efforts to build assets

Promote personal efforts to build assets through the enhancement of various financial and insurance services to contribute to a life with peace of mind for the elderly, e.g., savings accumulated by individuals to prepare for future care in old age. Formulate a system for the protection of rights in order to make effective use of assets for the elderly, e.g., support for assets management.

Responsible authorities: Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications

(3) Promoting the participation of the elderly in society

[Basic Direction of Measures]

Opportunities for the elderly to participate in society should be provided and the environment for participation improved so that they can, depending on their desires and abilities, maintain integration with society and enjoy their lives in various ways (e.g., work, recreation, community contribution) as important members of their communities together with other generations.

In particular, there is a need to promote measures to realize a society where the elderly can utilize the skills and experience they have gained over the years, and continue working until they are 65.

[Concrete Measures]

- Ensure employment opportunities until age 65

Provide guidance so that companies not establishing a retirement age of 60 by the time it becomes mandatory (April 1998) under the Law Concerning Stabilization of Employment of Older Persons, will set retirement at over 60 years old.

Establish conditions to promote the employment of the elderly (e.g., supporting initiatives by Silver Human Resources Centers to provide temporary, short-term work opportunities close to the community) to give them a sense of purpose as they adapt to retirement, and to enable them to contribute to society.

- Improve Opportunities for Learning

Formulate instructor training courses which target the elderly and which provide convenient opportunities for learning. Promote studies and research on policies for the participation of the elderly in society through learning activities.

- Promote activities for the elderly to participate in society

Give support to elderly clubs voluntarily set up by the elderly themselves and to model community participation activities independently planned, developed and run by elderly groups. Promote various exchange projects to encourage understanding among various generations.

- Support sports and recreation activities of the elderly

Support sports and recreation activities of the elderly, e.g., developing/establishing conveniently available regional sports clubs, maintaining sports facilities, training/securing sports instructors.

- Conduct informative and educational activities

Conduct informative and educational activities to encourage the active participation of the elderly in society in order to build a vital regional community and enable the elderly to live active lives as important members of society.

Responsible authorities: Management and Coordination Agency, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Labor

(4) Priority on consideration of those with disabilities

[Basic Direction of Measures]

To enable women and men to fully display their talents in all areas of society and achieve self-realization, efforts should be made to fully reflect the needs of women, the elderly and persons with disabilities when planning and implementing policy for the establishment of social infrastructure, as such policy has tended to favor adult men without disabilities.

[Concrete Measures]

- Consider persons with disabilities

Comprehensively promote various measures to remove the following barriers in order to encourage the independence and participation in society of persons with disabilities: physical barriers in transportation, buildings, etc.; institutional barriers due to qualification restrictions; cultural/informational barriers due to a lack of Braille/sign language services; and psychological barriers, such as stereotypes that persons with disabilities should be protected. Give special emphasis in this regard to consideration of women with disabilities in all areas.

Responsible authorities: All ministries and agencies