Can Japan Reach a Consensus Regarding Policies
to Address Its Low Birthrate?
- Building Platforms for Participatory Democracy-

“Deliberative Democracy” was discussed as Theme 1 at NIRA Forum 2023, held by the Nippon Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA) on February 4, 2023. Deliberative discussion among citizens will be indispensable to reaching a consensus regarding policies to address Japan’s declining birthrate, a topic regarding which there is a significant intergenerational gap in thinking. But how can we establish mechanisms for policymaking by means of deliberative discussion?

One method would be to adopt new perspectives when setting agendas. For example, in the area of support for child-raising, it is important to set the agenda in a direct relation to population decline; this means changing the agenda from the traditional approach that focuses on the current generation to one that takes future generations into consideration. The media is an exemplar of an institution with the power to set agendas, and it will also be essential to ensure that human resources in this area are fully capable of the task.

Another method is the rebuilding of platforms for deliberative discussion, an area in which IT is also expected to contribute. In Kakogawa City (Hyogo Prefecture), we can point to a practical example of deliberative discussion using an Internet platform. Although there are certain aspects of the process that give rise to difficulty in such deliberative discussions when the matter under debate is a policy issue at the national level, it is also possible that deliberative discussions led by regional administrations could spur discussions at the national level.

At the same time, there are concerns that the current Japanese system of governance in itself, characterized as it is by an almost complete lack of change in the ruling party and the limited ability of the administration to bring up-to-the-minute information from the ground level into dialogue with the political system, is hindering deliberative discussion-led policymaking.

*This is a translation of a paper originally published in Japanese in June, 2023.

President, NIRA / Professor, Graduate School of Public Policy, The University of Tokyo