Saturday 12 October 2019

PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Singapore's 50th anniversary dialogue on 10 October 2019

Singapore can learn from Japan ways to tackle ageing issues: PM Lee
By Fabian Koh, The Straits Times, 11 Oct 2019

Japan's ageing society has key lessons for Singapore, which will similarly face a greying society in about 15 years' time, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Speaking at a dialogue to mark the 50th anniversary of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Singapore (JCCI), he said: "We are looking carefully at all the things you do, all the technology you've invented. Devices for old folks, spoons and forks which old people can use, machines to give old people showers.

"All sorts of very clever devices that make life more pleasant and more practical for people," he said.

PM Lee was responding to Mr Takehiko Koyanagi, of financial publication Nikkei Asian Review, who was moderating the dialogue at the National University of Singapore's University Cultural Central.

He also said Singapore needs to learn how Japanese companies have adapted their practices to cater to older people in the workforce.

"Your companies have been very good at adjusting the jobs, the requirements, even the technology, so that old people can be productive and keep on working. We need to do a lot of that."

The Prime Minister also lauded Japan's cohesion in times of crisis, as seen in its response to natural disasters such as the 1995 Kobe earthquake and the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami that led to an accident at a nuclear power plant.

Japan's Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Jun Yamazaki, noted in his speech the progress made in the relationship between the two countries since the post-war period, when it was "tense".

"Despite the difficult situation, investments and technology transfer from Japan grew steadily after that time. This growth of Japanese investment in Singapore has resulted in Japan being the top Asian investor in Singapore today, in terms of FDI stock," he said, referring to foreign direct investment.

He attributed the win-win relationship partly to the "extraordinary leadership demonstrated by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew".

Moving forward, both countries need to work "even closer together" to deal with global issues like climate change, he added.

PM Lee, elaborating on Singapore's battle to boost its birth rate, puts its low birth rate partly down to the increased education levels of women here, with many pursuing careers.

"If they are working, they will have to assess the impact on their careers and whether they can manage their children and work at the same time," he said. "I can well understand that this is not easy to achieve."

He said the Government has been trying to "make it easier to be a mother in Singapore", by promoting flexible employment practices and improving the infant care and pre-school childcare sector.

The JCCI, which has about 820 member firms, aims to promote trade and investments between Singapore and Japan, along with cultural and social development.

At yesterday's event, JCCI's social responsibility arm, the JCCI Singapore Foundation, donated $100,000 to the NTUC-U Care Fund.


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