- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida outlined his new economic package on Monday, which comes amid declining support for the conservative leader’s cabinet.
- The package, for which many details remain unclear, will be financed from a supplementary budget.
- Kishida, who took office in 2021, oversees a cabinet with an approval rating of around 50%.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday unveiled the substance of a new economic package that focuses on wage increases and measures to soften the impact of rising prices. Support for his cabinet has dwindled despite the latest reshuffle less than two weeks ago.
Kishida told the Prime Minister’s Office that he would instruct his cabinet on Tuesday to begin drafting the package and immediately draw up a supplementary budget to finance it.
Details and the size of the package have yet to be announced, prompting opposition lawmakers to criticize Kishida for using the package to woo voter support ahead of suspected snap elections.
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Kishida’s announcement on Monday also comes as media polls showed his recent cabinet reshuffle has largely failed to boost his declining approval ratings.
According to media surveys conducted days after the September 13 cabinet reshuffle, support ratings remained steady at around 30%, while disapprovals topped around 50%. The majority of respondents said they did not give credit for the reshuffle, believing it was Kishida’s attempt to balance power among factions within his ruling party, rather than trying to improve government policies. It was seen as a move to consolidate his power ahead of his party’s leadership vote next year.
Voters initially welcomed the appointments of five women to his 19-member cabinet, part of his bid to shore up declining approval ratings for his previous male-dominated cabinet, which had only two women. The five women match the number in two previous Japanese offices – in 2014 and 2001.
But the praise quickly evaporated when the public discovered that none of the 54 posts for deputy ministers and other special advisory positions went to women.
Kishida also came under fire for his remarks on the appointment of the five women to the cabinet. She said she expected them to “fully display their sensitivity and empathy that is unique to women.”
This sparked backlash from women’s rights activists, academics and opposition MPs. The phrase was popular on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, with many users criticizing it as biased, outdated and questioning whether there is such a thing as a uniquely female sensibility.
Kishida later defended himself by saying that he wanted to emphasize the importance of diversity in policy-making and that he wanted to express his hope that female ministers would fully express their personalities and abilities on the job.
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On Monday, Kishida said the new economic package would include measures to ease the impact of rising prices on citizens, to achieve sustainable wage increases and income growth. It also pledged to promote domestic investment in sectors such as semiconductors to aid growth, while combating rapidly declining births and population and ensuring enhanced defense and disaster prevention.
Kishida has promised a “swift” implementation by the end of October, but how his government plans to finance heavy spending required for birth-reduction measures and a military build-up is unknown.
Kishida said he would shift the cost-cutting economy to one of active investment and wage growth.
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Asked if he was eyeing an early election amid growing speculation, Kishida said he was focused on dealing with the economy and other policies that could not be postponed. “Right now, I’m not thinking about anything beyond that,” he said.