May 10, 2019/ 12:45 PM - 5:00 PM

Exploration Room UCLA Luskin Conference Center

2019 Global Japan Forum -- Aging Japan: Economy and Policy

The first in a series, this forum will explore the interactions between policy, economics and demographics in Japan.

This year’s forum, the first in a series, is titled “Aging Japan: Economy and Policy” and aims to be an exploration into the interactions between policy, economics, and demographics in Japan. Experts will come together to discuss how Japan’s aging population is transforming the Japanese economic and political spheres, and how these changes in turn affect the Japanese population.

Japan is a country with one of the world’s fastest-growing elderly populations and shrinking working populations. The percentage of the Japanese population over 65 is now nearly a quarter, up from only 10% in 1985. By 2060 approximately 40% of the Japanese population—predicted to fall from 127 million people today to less than 100 million—will be represented by individuals aged 65 or older. What does this dramatic demographic change mean for the future of Japan and other countries experiencing a similar demographic transition? What actions are necessary to create a sustainable society when the costs of supporting an increasingly elderly population are rapidly growing, and how can technology be utilized to improve the quality of life for the elderly and reduce the burden shouldered by the younger working population? And perhaps most importantly, how are communities in Japan being affected by these demographic changes, and what are they doing to cope?

Forum details

Keynote Speech: Ageing, Our Challenge of this Century
Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo

Panel 1: Economics of Aging

Yusuke Tsugawa, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine

Jay Bhattacharya, Stanford University School of Medicine
Emiko Usui, Hitotsubashi University Institute of Labor Economics

The first panel will explore how the Japanese economy is affected by the aging population, and what we can expect from the economy in the near and distant future. The rapidly-growing elderly population affects the financial sustainability of pension and healthcare, and we need to design policies that can effectively address this issue. The elderly, however, could also create a new economic environment. For example, companies that provide care and services demanded by the elderly may prosper due to the increasing elderly population. Many of the elderly people in Japan are in good health and continue to work after their retirement age, creating a new definition of “working-age population.”

Panel 2: Policies of Aging

Michael Thies, UCLA Department of Political Science

Hilary Holbrow, Harvard University Department of Sociology
Yesola Kweon, Utah State University Department of Political Science
Charles McClean, UC San Diego Department of Political Science

The second panel will explore the intergenerational conflict borne from an increasingly elderly population, and the ways in which the Japanese government is using policy to address problems presented by extreme demographic change. For example, Japan has coined a term called “silver democracy,” meaning that politicians are pro-elderly because the elderly population is more likely to vote than the younger population. This creates a tension between the older versus younger populations, due to frustration coming from the perception that younger people are incurring the burden of supporting the elderly. The panel will discuss how we can maintain and improve the sense of fairness and equality under such a demographic transition.


12:45 – 12:50 PM Welcome Remarks by Chris Erickson, Senior Associate Vice Provost and Director of the International Institute

12:50 – 1:00 PM Welcome Remarks by Hitoshi Abe, Director of the UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies

1:00 – 1:20 PM Keynote Speech: Ageing, Our Challenge of this Century by Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Chair, Health and Global Policy Institute, Tokyo; Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo

1:20 – 1:25 PM Remarks by Seiji Lippit, Assistant Director of the UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies

Panel 1: Economics

1:25 – 1:30 PM Introduction of Panelists by Yusuke Tsugawa, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine

1:30 – 1:50 PM Population Aging, Health, and Geography in Japan by Jayanta Bhattacharya, Stanford University

I will report on the results of a microsimulation study I have conducted to project how the aging of the Japanese population will change the prevalence of chronic disease (including diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and heart disease) in Japan in coming years, and the stress this will impose on the financing of Japanese health care.

1:50 – 2:10 PM Work Capacity of the Elderly in Japan by Emiko Usui, Hitotsubashi University

Most Japanese men, approximately 90%, have high labor-force attachment until they reach age 60. They gradually move from the labor force to retirement throughout their 60s, and approximately 75 percent are out of the labor force at age 75. Usui et al. (2015), however, found substantial work capacity among men in the age groups of 60-74 years. As the elderly’s health decline slowly and does not deteriorate significantly throughout their 60s, the changes in men’s work status from work to retirement are not fully attributable to deteriorating health conditions. At the forum, I explain that working arrangements and pension arrangements in Japan create substantial differences in work and retirement behaviors between those who had salaried jobs and those who were self-employed when young.

2:10 – 2:30 PM Discussion

2:30 – 2:45 PM Q&A

2:45 – 2:55 PM Break

Panel 2: Policy

2:55 – 3:00 PM Introduction of Panelists by Mike Thies, UCLA Department of Political Science

3:00 – 3:20 PM Population Decline and Inequality by Hilary Holbrow, Harvard University

Media reports of population decline describe the phenomenon as a “crisis” and a “disaster.” But some scholars have provocatively hypothesized that a shrinking population may have positive social effects, including more positive attitudes towards, and greater economic equality for, certain formerly marginalized groups. This presentation explores whether women and immigrants in Japan reap these potential benefits, and why.

3:20 – 3:40 PM Framing Effects and Reciprocal Intergroup Support in an Aging Society: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Japan by Yesola Kweon, Utah State University

Age is increasingly considered an important basis of social division in graying societies. The conventional view is that the old and the young have conflicting policy interests, opposing initiatives that directly benefit competing age groups. In contrast to this view, this study, drawing on the findings of a survey experiment conducted in Japan, shows that the perceived salience of the elderly’s economic precarity increases working-age individuals’ support for government assistance to senior citizens. However, reciprocity matters. When the elderly poor are described as poor consumers, framing has a weaker impact. By contrast, when the elderly poor are described as laborers, making social contribution, there is greater youth support for the old. We further find that the reciprocity mechanism has a stronger impact on younger people with high skills and secured employment, and a weaker impact on those with low skills and insecure employment.

3:40 – 4:00 PM Does It Matter That Politicians Are Older Than Their Constituents? Yes. by Charles McClean, UC San Diego

Does it matter that elected officials tend to be older than their constituents? While there is significant evidence that characteristics such as gender, race, class, and sexual orientation can influence the attitudes and behavior of political elites, we lack research on whether age has a similar effect. To address this gap, I examine the impact of younger mayors on municipal spending with an original dataset of over 10,000 mayoral candidates in Japan over the past 15 years. Using a regression discontinuity design, I find that electing a younger person mayor leads municipalities to change the age orientation of their social welfare programs: increasing expenditures on child welfare relative to elderly welfare. These findings demonstrate that the age of elected officials matters for representational behavior, and add to a growing literature on the role of local political actors in providing social welfare services.

4:00 – 4:30 PM Discussion

4:30 – 4:45 PM Q&A

4:45 – 4:50 PM Closing Remarks by Seiji Lippit, Associate Director of the UCLA Terasaki Center of Japanese Studies


Keynote Speaker

Kiyoshi Kurokawa

Dr. Kurokawa, Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo has served and serves as president and/or executive officer to many prestigious national and international professional societies in medicine, nephrology, science academies and science policy organizations. Dr. Kurokawa was professor of Medicine at UCLA (1979-84) and head of Nephrology Division of West LA VA Medical Center; licensed to practice medicine both in Japan and in the State of California, board certified in internal medicine and its subspecialty of nephrology by the American Board of Internal Medicine, and Master of the American College of Physicians. Dr. Kurokawa, a former Special Advisor to the Cabinet (2006-08), has served and serves in many committees of the Ministries and Cabinet Office of Japan. He was "Chair of Fukushima Nuclear Accident Commission by the National Diet”, first in the history of constitutional democratic Japan, and received 'Science Freedom and Responsibility Award of AAAS and named "100 World Thinkers of Year 2012" of Foreign Affairs for this work.



Jayanta Bhattacharya

Jay Bhattacharya’s research focuses on the constraints that vulnerable populations face in making decisions that affect their health status, as well as the effects of government policies and programs designed to benefit vulnerable populations. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed studies on the elderly, adolescents, obese patients, HIV patients, patients with kidney disease, patient with heart disease, and many other vulnerable populations, as well as a leading textbook on health economics. Dr. Bhattacharya is a research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. He holds an MD and a Ph.D. in economics, both from Stanford University.



Hilary Holbrow

Hilary J. Holbrow is Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies in Sociology at Harvard University and an International Research Fellow at the Canon Institute for Global Studies in Tokyo. She researches and teaches on inequality, immigration, gender, race and ethnicity, and organizations, and is writing a book on how demographic decline reshapes social and economic hierarchies. Prior to joining the Sociology Department, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard's Program on U.S.-Japan Relations. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Cornell University and a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Boston University. Her work on the Japanese labor market has appeared in International Migration Review, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, and Work and Occupations.



Yesola Kweon

Dr. Kweon is an assistant professor of political science at Utah State University. Her research spans the fields of political economy, political behavior, and public policy. Her recent projects examine the responses of political actors to new forms of socio-economic risk in post-industrial societies. In particular, her work focuses on the impact of market dualization, globalization, and population aging. Dr. Kweon’s work has appeared in Electoral Studies, International Interaction, and West European Politics.



Charles McClean

Charles T. McClean is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. His research interests include Japanese politics, democratic representation, elite behavior, and political institutions. Prior to UCSD, Charles was a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations (2011-14), where he conducted research on Japan's domestic politics and foreign policy, Asia-Pacific international relations, and U.S. policy toward Asia. He previously worked on Asia-Pacific issues at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (2010-11) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2010). Charles spent a year in Japan as a Fulbright fellow at Kobe University (2008-09), and was selected for the Presidential Management Fellowship (2011). He earned his BA in International Relations and Japanese from Tufts University (summa cum laude) and his MA from the Regional Studies East Asia program at Harvard University.



Emiko Usui

Emiko Usui is an associate professor at Hitotsubashi University, Japan. She received her B.A. in economics from the University of Tokyo and her Ph.D. in Economics from Northwestern University. Her research interests are in the area of labor economics, including elderly employment, employment protection, gender issues, education, compensating differentials, labor search models, intergenerational links in skills, and testing for employer learning. Her research papers have been published in such academic journals as Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Labour Economics, Quantitative Economics, and Research in Labor Economics.



Michael Thies

Michael Thies, Associate Professor in the Political Science Department. His most recent book publication is Japan Transformed: Political Change and Economic Restructuring. (Princeton University Press, 2010). He is Chair of the International & Area Studies as well as the Global Studies Academic Programs at UCLA and teaches courses on comparative politics, Japanese poltitics, and constitutional design.


Yusuke Tsugawa

Yusuke Tsugawa, MD, MPH, PhD is Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCLA. Prior to joining the faculty at UCLA, he was a health specialist at the World Bank group and a research associate at Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Tsugawa received his PhD in Health Policy from Harvard University with a concentration in statistics, and his MPH from Harvard School of Public Health. His research focuses on the variation in quality and costs of care across individual physicians and its determinants. Dr. Tsugawa's research has been published in leading medical and health policy journals including JAMA, BMJ, and Lancet. Dr. Tsugawa's research has also been featured in several media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and National Public Radio.

This event is RSVP only. Please RSVP through the following website by May 6, 2019.

2019 UCLA Terasaki Center Global Japan Forum: Aging Japan RSVP Website

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