Lifelong learning and demographics: a Japanese perspective
This paper explores the social dimension of lifelong learning from the perspective of demographics, with particular focus on the issue of the birth of fewer children, which has become one of the most important current social issues in Japanese society. When considering the relationship between lifelong learning and demographics, the issues arising from an ageing population are usually the focus of policy‐makers. This perspective often overlooks crucial children's issues, such as child development and the influence of the child's daily environment. This paper suggests that it is necessary to analyse the issues arising from a society with fewer children independent of the concept of an aged society with fewer children in an attempt to emphasize these essential issues. The presented relationship between lifelong learning and the issues surrounding the birth of fewer children is based on two perspectives. The first perspective seeks to remove barriers such as the economic burden of educating children and the traditional stereotypical gender‐roles that have contributed to the birth of fewer children. The second perspective includes a response to the negative influences that the birth of fewer children has had on family's experiences of child rearing and on children's growth. Specifically, this paper develops the second perspective by focusing on three aspects: the development of children's social skills; children's growth as influenced by a high adult:child ratio; a decline in the quality of child rearing. Three issues are identified as necessary in order to build a Japanese society that fosters children: (1) embracing the concept of the ‘family‐friendly company'; (2)creating opportunities for mixed age groups to participate in learning programmes based on communities and schools; (3) reconsidering an intergenerational exchange programme.
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