Public Policy Studies

Atsushi Miyawaki

Solving Present Day Problems to Create an Economic Society of the Future

Atsushi Miyawaki , Professor

Graduate School of Law Division of Law and Political Studies (School of Law)

High school : Tokyo Municipal Yashio High School

Academic background : Nihon University School of Law

Research areas
Policy studies, public administration
Research keywords
decreasing birthrate and aging population, globalization, public policy, public/private sector partnership, administration and public finance, policy thought

The 21st century is the age of internal creativity

In the 21st century, Japan’s economic society faces changes to its environment unlike anything seen before. These changes include a population decline, caused by a reduced birthrate and aging population, and globalization. During the 60 years since the end of the war, Japan became one of the leading developed nations in the world as a result of its consistently growing population and expanding economy. Pensions, welfare provision, public works, fiscal policy and other elements of our economic society were all established based on the assumption of this growth continuing. Our population, however, has continued to decline throughout the 21st century, and in a mere 40 years (in the 2050’s) it is expected to fall to between 80 and 90 million, while once we reach the 22nd century it is likely to fall to around half the present level, to around 60 million. This means that not only will there be a much smaller working population, but the various systems and policies that have been put into place will no longer function. Furthermore, globalization continues to lower the fences between nations, allowing people, things, resources, finance and information to move freely around the world by means such as the internet. While this has created new opportunities, it has also created new problems, such as global warming and financial crises. As changes in the global population and globalization come together, the nucleus of global growth, known as the “demographic bonus,” has moved in the 21st century from North America to China, India and Africa, and we are transitioning from the age of the developed nations of the 20th century into an age of emerging nations, typified by China. This is beginning to cause a huge shift in economic societies and also in politics. This change in paradigm requires internal creativity, in which countries can create their own systems, policies and strategies in regard to the rest of the world. In other words, we are now approaching an age of knowledge.


Diagnosis and prescription for an economic society

So what is “policy”? On a day-to-day basis, our society is overflowing with phrases such as “economic policy,” “environmental policy,” “welfare policy,” “government policy manifestos,” etc., churned out by newspapers, TV and other mass media. However, if someone were to ask me, “What is policy?”, it is quite difficult to give a concrete answer.

The definition of “policy” is extremely diverse. A range of definitions exist, including “a group of principles to guide behavior” and “an aggregate indicating the future ideals and basic attitudes of government.” Whichever definition you take, however, they all include the idea of “ideals.” An “ideal” is the best state that you can think of, and is also the opposite of “reality.” We have ideals for every area of life – from wanting to achieve something in your own future, to wanting to change Japanese society and wanting to change the world. Policy is a collection of methods to turn those ideals into reality, in other words, “a collection of methods of linking ideals and reality.” It requires diagnosing the current situation, prescribing a treatment to improve it, and bridging the current reality with the future.


The “prescription” that is equivalent to policy turns ideals into reality. Of course, there is a big difference between individual ideals and realizing ideals for an economic society. An actual economic society includes a wide range of views, with the ideals drawn therefrom also being diverse. The policies used to realize ideals for an economic society are known as “public policy.” Without the strength to compile a diverse range of thoughts and ideals into a single direction, the written “prescription” will turn out to be nothing more than a piece of paper. The strength to compile this into something comes from politics. However, in order for it to be able to be of practical use to society, good imagination and technology need to be built into an economic society, in other words, to be made to function by building it into an economic society via politics. Public policy is the bridge, connecting theory and reality in a way that stands up to political and market scrutiny.


The importance of policy thought

As can be understood from the above, public policy is not restricted to a particular field such as science or the arts. It is a multi-disciplinary subject, bridging the present and the future, and theory with reality. Policy thought is what constructs this bridge. We need knowledge and information in order to think about policy. Knowledge comes from learning and experience. Accordingly, regardless of age and position, it is necessary for us study in order to continue to evolve our knowledge and build up further experience. Furthermore, in order to use this knowledge for the benefit of an economic society, we need to remain aware of what is happening in society on a day-to-day basis, and constantly combine this with our knowledge in order to reimagine policy in an ongoing manner.

In the 21st century, economic societies will need to begin to look at the natural environment, technological development, welfare, medicine, finance, politics and public policy – all things that have been considered separate entities to date – in a more mutually connected way. Policy thought plays a role in joining these differing entities together, and in supporting their being joined at a global level, as well as in their creation and application. To date, policy in Japan has been considered divided into specialist areas of politics and public administration. The public policy of the future must open itself up to partnerships with a range of entities, not simply government and public administration, but also corporations and volunteers, among others. In this way, too, it is a bridge between the public and private sectors.