TOKYO -- The so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution will help Japan overcome the challenge of its shrinking and graying population and revitalize its economy, an outline of Japan's next economic growth strategy, compiled Tuesday by a government panel, says.
"We shall create new businesses by bravely transforming the existing framework," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday, explaining the main goal of the government's new growth strategy. "We are now standing at a crucial point that will determine the future of our young people," he continued during a Tuesday meeting of the Industrial Competitiveness Council.
One of the various numerical targets contained in the outline is a goal to raise Japan's nominal gross domestic product to 600 trillion yen ($5.5 trillion) by around 2020 from the current level of roughly 500 trillion yen.
Better use of talent
In an effort to accelerate economic growth, the government is considering making it easier for highly skilled foreign professionals to obtain permanent resident status in Japan. At present, those people must have lived in Japan for at least five years before they can apply for a such a visa. But Abe expressed his desire to reduce the lead time to "the shortest in the world." This likely means that the government will work toward slashing it to less than three years. In the U.K., for example, the wait period is three years.
A shrinking population is expected to start taking a toll on Japan's labor pool. In addition to bringing in more foreign professionals, the government plans to step up efforts to train more skilled people and make better productive use of its existing population. Designating artificial intelligence and information technology as key areas of focus, it aims to make computer programming a mandatory subject for elementary and secondary school students in 2020 or later.
Some private-sector members of the industrial competitiveness panel argue that the government must make more of an effort to reform the labor market to make it easier for people to switch jobs. At present, only vague goals, such as cracking down on excessive work hours and encouraging more women and elderly people to work, have been adopted.
Technology, privatization, globalization
The fourth industrial revolution is another key piece of the puzzle. By further developing emerging technologies, such as autonomous driving, smart factories and drones, and utilizing them to create new businesses, the government wants to open up new markets worth 30 trillion yen in total by 2020.
Boosting productivity by allowing private management of public facilities will also be an important part of the new strategy.
The environment will continue to be a main focus, as the government will aim to meet its international obligations on greenhouse gas emissions while growing the economy. A goal will be set to lift combined annual investment by the public and private sectors in energy-efficient homes and other environment-related fields by 10 trillion yen to 28 trillion yen by fiscal 2030.
The government also aims to cultivate overseas markets for Japanese businesses by leveraging the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Namely, it will actively support small and midsize businesses' efforts to set up shop overseas, as well as help boost infrastructure exports.
The new strategy is expected to be finalized next month. As a next step, the panel will work to flesh out measures for achieving goals and numerical targets.