As we look back over the year just ended, it is fair to say that although in Japan the economy continued to grow gradually and consistently, the international environment is undergoing a dynamic transition, and we have entered an uncertain world in which digital technology is bringing major changes not only to the economy but to the foundations of society itself. Our challenge is to create a future for Japan in the midst of these changes. Last November, Keidanren published Society 5.0: Co-creating the future, a proposal that aims to share wisdom and insights and strengthen cooperation among industry, academia, and government to create a new human-centered society. It is also a declaration of intent for how Keidanren will act in the years to come.
The central concept of the proposal is Society 5.0, based on the idea that human society is moving into a fifth stage. Following on from the Hunting Society, Agrarian Society, Industrial Society, and Information Society, the fifth stage will be an Imagination Society, in which a combination of the digital transformation and the imagination and creativity of diverse people will make it possible to solve the problems facing society and create new values. Some people have voiced concerns about the darker aspects of digitalization, warning of a loss of jobs, growing social disparities caused by data hoarding, and the arrival of a surveillance society where there is no privacy. But I believe that effective use of Internet of Things and artificial intelligence will liberate people from repetitive, mundane tasks: this will allow them to harness their true human creativity and create a new society of the future using cutting-edge technology.
At Keidanren, we do not regard digitalization pessimistically. Our idea is that Japan should take the lead in sharing with the world concepts that will build toward the future, and use the digital transformation to create a bright, optimistic society. This was the idea behind the comprehensive proposal we drew up for Society 5.0.
Society 5.0 will bring profound changes to people’s lifestyles and industry. Society 5.0 aims to use the potential of the digital transformation not only for economic growth, but for the solution of social issues and coexistence with nature. It can also help to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In our proposal, we outlined what we call “Society 5.0 for SDGs,” a specific vision for the society we should aim toward. Moving forward, Keidanren will continue to refine this proposal and will take the initiative in realizing our idea, transforming the Japanese economy and society.
This coming year, we have established three main pillars for our activities. In addition to strengthening our growth strategy around the Society 5.0 for SDGs concept, our main focuses will be promoting structural reforms to achieve sustainability for the social security system and realize fiscal consolidation, and developing economic diplomacy that will help to maintain and strengthen a free and open international economic order. We will work to overcome the current period of uncertainty and boldly open up the way into a new era.
We will also exert all our energies to ensuring the success of the Rugby World Cup this year, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year, and the Osaka, Kansai Expo in 2025. I hope we can look forward to your continued help and support as we work to build a brighter future together.