Creating a Roadmap for an Aging Society
Currently, there are 14 million seniors, age 75 and above, living in Japan, and that number will increase by a factor of more than 1.5 to 22 million by the year 2025. Such a meteoric rise in the number of seniors is almost unheard of in the history of the world, and we must think at length about what kind of response society as a whole will be forced to make. With these considerations in mind, we at the Fujitsu Research Institute are taking part together with the University of Tokyo in a business-academic collaborative consortium entitled “Gerontology.” In collaboration with other companies and professors from the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Gerontology, we are creating an image of the society of 20 years from now and a roadmap to take us there.
When building a roadmap, many facets are brought under discussion, such as urbanization, building infrastructure, dietary habits and education, life purpose, etc. Here, however, I will write about medical care, health, ICT, and social security systems, with which I am intimately familiar.
Conflict of Interest over Resource Development and Benefit-sharing
In societies where the labor population is in decline due to aging, increasing productivity is essential. Applications of ICT that make our lives easy and full, such as electronic money like Suica or the internet, do make contributions to increased productivity, but in an aging society, the use of ICT in medical care and healthcare is especially important.
In that regard, problems in the areas of know-how and human resources arise as important points of discussion. In the US, in order to catch the signs of the H1N1 Influenza virus as early as possible, the data of local medical institutions, pharmacies, poultry farms and pig farms were gathered, but without any personnel able to analyze them, the data went to waste. In Japan as well, uses of ICT such as electronic charts and online medical fee receipts will make gathering large amounts of data possible in the future and, with the introduction of standardized numbers, it will be possible to construct a multidimensional database that can integrate data from these disparate sources. However, if there are no personnel capable of analyzing such a large-scale, multidimensional database then the database will have no meaning. Therefore, one of our long-term tasks is to cultivate and develop such personnel and know-how.
Social Security Funding and Standardized Numbers
Another large problem facing us is how to obtain funding for a social security system in an aging society. Raising tax rates to build funding is one possibility, but if tax equity is not maintained it seems unlikely that society will agree to this method. It is well known that tax evaders usually follow only two MOs: reducing their “in” (excluding sales, etc.) or padding their “out” (fictional expenses, etc.). However, the number of people working in taxes is limited, and it is hardly realistic to try to catch all corporate and individual tax evaders by sheer force of numbers. Furthermore, advances in communications such as the advent of the internet, the liberalization of finance, globalization, etc. have in fact made it difficult to track down assets. Based on such changes in society, a system using standardized numbers and invoices which allows officials to accurately track people’s income is very important from the point of view of fairness as well. Moreover, income tax is currently paid through self-assessment, but financial income, especially interest, is difficult for most people to assess on their own. If there were a system, such as standardized numbers, whereby assessment could be completed by simply putting a checkmark on a sheet sent by the tax office, people could save the time and money that they otherwise would have spent on their income tax assessment.
That being said, the introduction of standardized numbers is not some magic wand that will make all of society live happily ever after. It is important that we use standardized numbers to help pave the way towards value creation in society, and that we deal with problems in know-how, such as personnel cultivation, towards that end.