Kishida says Japan will ease COVID border controls from Oct 11 – Nationwide
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his country will ease COVID-19 border control requirements next month, a key step in fostering a recovery in Japan’s tourism sector, which is eager to take advantage of the yen’s slide to a 24-year low. Japan has maintained some of the strictest border measures among major economies since the pandemic’s onset, having effectively blocked entry to visitors for two years until it began a gradual reopening in June.
Kishida’s announcement, made during a speech at the New York Stock Exchange, follows a pledge he made in May that Japan would bring its border controls more in line with other Group of Seven nations.
Japan’s insistence that visitors obtain visas to enter the country and then adhere to planned, package tours has been a major sticking point. Prior to the pandemic, Japan had visa waiver agreements with nearly 70 countries and regions, including the United States, the European Union, and many Asian neighbours. Business lobbies and travel companies have urged Japan to relax its border controls more swiftly, saying they were out of step with major trading partners and could cause the nation to fall behind economically. Japan’s currency weakened past the psychologically important level of 145 yen to the dollar, making foreign travel and purchases in the country the cheapest in decades.
From Oct 11, Japan will restore individual tourism and visa-waiver travel to people from certain countries as long as they are vaccinated. At the same time, it will also scrap a daily cap on arrivals, currently set at 50,000, and may revise regulations on hotels, allowing them to refuse guests who don’t abide by infection controls, such as mask wearing, during an outbreak, domestic media reported. Japan officially let in tourists in June for the first time in two years, but only about 8,000 arrived through July, compared with more than 80,000 visitors a day before the pandemic.
Over 75s top 15% of Japan’s population for 1st time – Nationwide
For the first time, Japan’s over 75s account for over 15 percent of the population after their cohort rose by 720,000 to 19.37 million people, government data released showed, in further evidence of the country’s rapidly greying society. Also hitting record highs this year were the over 65s, or seniors, accounting for 29.1 percent of the population, or 36.27 million people, according to Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications data released ahead of Respect for the Aged Day holiday. Japan tops the world rankings for oldest society by proportion of over 65s, well above Italy in second place at 24.1 percent and third place Finland with 23.3 percent.
The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research projects seniors to make up 35.3 percent of the population by 2040. A surge in elderly people presents problems for the country, including in health care system improvements and efforts to reverse low birth rates and sustain regional communities. Government data from 2021 also showed that the number of employed seniors had risen for an 18th consecutive year, increasing by 60,000 to 9.09 million.
While the proportion of over 65s working was on par with last year’s 25.1 percent, for the first time, the majority of people aged 65 to 69 — 50.3 percent — had a job. Seniors comprised 13.5 percent of the workforce, 0.1 point below last year’s record high. But there were signs of seniors quitting their jobs due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with a notable trend of decline seen since August 2021.
According to the data, some 15.74 million male seniors and 20.53 million females are aged 65 or over. The rise in the over 75s is attributed to the children of the first baby boom of 1947 to 1949 reaching their 75th birthdays. About 12.35 million people are aged 80 and older, or 9.9 percent of the population, and around 2.65 million people are in their 90s — roughly 2.1 percent of the country.
Japan to launch domestic travel subsidy program on Oct 11 – Nationwide
Japan will launch a new subsidy program to boost domestic tourism on Oct 11, the same day it plans to remove its daily cap for overseas arrivals as part of easing COVID-19 border control measures. The National Travel Discount, which Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced in New York, will replace the Go To Travel subsidy program and expand similar existing programs operating at the prefectural level.
The scheme is expected to provide the equivalent of up to 11,000 yen in discounts and coupons per traveller per day which can be used for meals, shopping, and accommodation fees. The government plans to announce details of the program as soon as possible, but it has raised doubts about whether it will boost regional economies. With the start of the program less than three weeks away, the announcement has also left tourism businesses and facilities with little time to prepare, as well as caused confusion about whether the program can be applied to new accommodation reservations.
Under a system where the national government subsidizes the costs borne by prefectural authorities to implement such programs, the 47 prefectures will be allowed to suspend the scheme depending on the infection situation within their jurisdiction. Prefectural governments will also have the authority to determine the scheme’s running period or whether to even implement it at all, leading to the possibility that it may not be launched simultaneously across the country.