Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The wisdom of Sadako Ogata

Sadako Ogata is 81 and she is not retiring. She still has much work to do. From At 81, Japan's Outspoken Force for the World's Poor:
But unlike many high-powered U.N. officials, Ogata never mastered the art of speaking at length while saying nothing. She even chided Japan for failing to be serious about humanitarian work.

"I think it would be pretty good if Japan, in becoming an economic power, becomes a humanitarian power as well," she said just before she took office.

Years later, she is still chiding Japan. What upsets her now, she said, is the government's failure to address the country's extraordinary demographic crisis. Japan has the world's oldest population and is projected to lose up to 70 percent of its workforce by 2050.

Yet Japanese leaders have done "nothing" to increase immigration, "nothing" to ease the strain on working mothers and "nothing" to change a work-obsessed culture that keeps many young couples from having children, she said.

"Everybody knew this was happening," she added. "Nothing was done. Do we have political leaders who are farsighted? No!"
Recall this graphic from Is this the future?

Look at the long tail of the kite. The very old and the very young need enormous amounts of care. That care falls exclusively on the shoulders of women. Ogata speaks the unfortunate truth. This society is in its death throes. Unless they both increase immigration AND make life less difficult for working mothers, their nation is dead.

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