Nikkei conference

Abe woos global talent for Society 5.0 drive

TOKYO • Japan strives to be "Exhibit Number One" in showing the world how growth can still be achieved through innovation, even in the face of steep population decline, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last night.

But he pledged that his country, known for its insular mindset, will roll out the red carpet for global talent interested in the country and its so-called Society 5.0 drive.

This is the country's latest buzzword to describe a smart nation that taps artificial intelligence (AI) and big data in such diverse industries from agriculture to health care.

"I do not fear that the spread of AI will deprive people of jobs; instead, I view it as an opportunity for people to shift into more creative jobs," he told a dinner reception for world leaders attending the 23rd Nikkei Future of Asia conference.

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"We want to borrow more of the energy of young people from all around the world," he added. "We will clear a path and point the way forward for young people who are even slightly interested in Japan, from the study of the Japanese language to jobs related to Japan."

Eligible talent who have worked in Japan for one year will be able to apply for permanent residency, Mr Abe said, adding that this is among the shortest in the world.

And to grow interest among the young, Asian high school students who are learning Japanese will be able to live in Japan for 10 months under a new initiative, he said.

The initiative hopes to draw 1,000 students over the next five years.

Japan is looking outward as it lurches from one grim set of demographic data to another.

Latest data released last Friday showed that the number of babies born over a year fell below 1 million last year, the first time since records began in 1899.

A government study released two months ago showed that the nation's population, which now stands at 127 million, will shrink 30 per cent by 2065.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2017, with the headline 'Abe woos global talent for Society 5.0 drive'. Print Edition | Subscribe