Lecture 2: Recurrent-education initiatives by the Japanese government (e.g., the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

February 9th, 2022 [No. 92-2021]

Dr. YAMADA Hisashi,
Vice Chief Counselor, Senior Economist,
The Japan Research Institute, Limited





Japan's initiatives as recurrent education grows increasingly important

Lecture 2: Recurrent-education initiatives by the Japanese government (e.g., the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

 Japan began to introduce a policy of full-fledged promotion of recurrent education in the second half of the 1990s. The necessity of transforming the industrial structure above and beyond existing frameworks came to be recognized through the experience of the collapse of the "bubble" economy in the early 1990s and the global financial crisis that struck about 10 years later, and there were rising calls for recognizing the necessity of relocation of labor between companies and industries. Under such conditions, employability was identified as an important factor, and the importance of workers acquiring knowledge and skills across the boundaries between companies came to be advocated.

 Under such conditions, in 1998 Japan, which had employed a system based on support through companies, adopted new measures provided directly to individual workers. These consisted of a system of education and training benefits utilizing the employment insurance system. Under this system, intended to support autonomous skills development by individual workers, those who completed government-designated education and training programs were reimbursed for a portion of the training costs. This system was expanded in stages thereafter, and as a result it not only supported the earning of individual qualifications but also contributed to increasing numbers of professional graduate students, which had been very small previously.

 Comprehensive initiatives related to recurrent education first were launched under the second administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which took office in 2012 [3]. Even earlier, the first Abe administration, which took office in 2006, established a plan to support workers taking on new challenges, and in response the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology began subsidizing outstanding educational programs for professional students at universities and junior colleges in 2007. However, these programs had been discontinued temporarily with the change in administrations, and then various measures were taken when Prime Minister Abe was returned to office later.

 Specifically, the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, chaired by the Prime Minister and including membership from the private sector, referred to the necessity of support for relearning to train human resources in highly specialized positions, and the Japan Revitalization Strategy growth strategy also incorporated relearning for professionals as a priority measure. In response, the benefits for education and training referred to above were expanded, and a system was established to recognize outstanding practical, specialized programs at universities, graduate schools, and vocational schools. In addition, the 2015 revisions to the Japan Revitalization Strategy incorporated the introduction and promotion of a "Self-Career Dock" program to support employees' understanding of issues related to career formation and preparation and review of career plans. In this way, a system was developed for promoting career independence as infrastructure for recurrent education.

 Furthermore, in 2017 the Japanese government introduced the slogan of a "revolution in human- resources development" intended to help realize a society characterized by what it called "Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens." The National Council for Promoting the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens was established to give concrete form to related measures. A report prepared by this council [4] identified practical measures such as the following as keys to recurrent education to drive human-resource development and, by extension, increases in the productivity of the Japanese economy: (i) further enhancement of education and training benefits, (ii) development of recurrent education programs through industry-academy alliance in the fields of AI, robotics, and Internet of things (IoT), and (iii) recurrent education for engineers. It also referred to the opening of specialized universities incorporating practical training into their curricula, as university reforms.

[3] Iwasaki, Kumiko (2020), "Changing policies on 'relearning'" (Journal of the Japan Institute of Labour) was referred to regarding the changes in the Abe administration's policies.
[4] Council for Designing 100-Year Life Society, "Basic Design for the Human Resources Development Revolution" (June 13, 2018 summary by the Council for Designing 100-Year Life Society).

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