RIETI Report July 2015

RIETI-JSTAR Symposium "Japan's Future as a Super Aging Society: International comparison of JSTAR datasets"

An accurate understanding of the actual situation of the elderly is important as we search for a desirable social security policy against the backdrop of a rapidly aging population. RIETI launched in 2007 the Japanese Study of Aging and Retirement (JSTAR), a large panel data survey of the elderly, to address this issue in Japan. In the July issue of the RIETI Report, we present the summary from the RIETI-JSTAR Symposium "Japan's Future as a Super Aging Society: International comparison of JSTAR datasets" where leading researchers from similar studies in countries around the world provided presentations to help understand the real picture of the elderly through international comparisons. The participants also discussed how the Japanese social security system should be reformed.

The symposium featured the keynote speech "Recent Research Development of JSTAR and its Implications for Social Security Policy" by RIETI Faculty Fellow Hidehiko Ichimura. He discussed some of the recent research using JSTAR, which followed an introduction of JSTAR and its purpose. Ichimura then reviewed three examples of research carried out using JSTAR data, including the implications of aging on labor shortages, deterioration of the pay-as-you-go pension system, and increased healthcare expenditures.

The symposium featured five other speakers. The first was Axel Börsch-Supan (Director, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max-Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy) who looked at comparable data from Europe in his presentation "Research Findings from International Comparisons with SHARE" and noted that the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) refuted several prejudices regarding the relations between health and retirement. SHARE is particularly helpful because it looks at various policies in different countries with a range of political leanings, which allows the direction of causality to be determined. The next presentation was titled "The Lifetime Risk of Nursing Home Use and Lifetime Out-of-pocket Spending" by Michael Hurd (Director, RAND Center for the Study of Aging). Hurd discussed the situation in the United States and revealed that the lifetime risk of nursing home use in the United States is between 56% and 58%. He implied that Medicaid is a better long-term choice than long-term care insurance. Following this was the presentation "Research Findings Using HRS-typed Datasets: The Case of Asia" by Albert Park (Professor, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) who reviewed findings from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS). Some of his findings include the severe conditions that Chinese elderly face in terms of their health, the quality of benefits they receive, and the frequency of elevated depressive symptoms. Next up was "Policy Effectiveness: The Case of the United States" by Robin Lumsdaine (Professor, American University) who looked at Health and Retirement Study (HRS) data from the United States which have been invaluable in identifying areas that need policy response, as well in evaluating the effects of policies that have been enacted. The last speaker, James Banks (Professor, University of Manchester) in his presentation "Policy Effectiveness and Usage: The Case of the United Kingdom," talked about the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and concluded that ELSA is successful because it is being used to inform policy as links between statistics are just as important as the statistics themselves.

Finally, a panel discussion on a variety of related issues was held with the speakers and moderated by RIETI Faculty Fellow Yasuyuki Sawada. It commenced with RIETI Program Director Mitsuhiro Fukao's points on the Japanese experience and policy issues. Other panelists also answered wide-ranging questions from the audience.

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