When a Japanese citizen turns 100, the government honors the centenarian with a congratulatory letter signed by the prime minister, as well as with a silver cup etched with the kanji character for "kotobuki," which is used on felicitous occasions.

For years, the cup was sterling silver, but it was downgraded to a silver-plated one in fiscal 2016 following complaints that this handsome gift was a "waste of taxpayer's money."

Lynda Gratton, a behavior theorist and professor of management practice at the London Business School, discussed this episode in her co-authored 2016 book, "The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity." She explained that Japan's budget squeeze was the cause of the cup's demotion from sterling silver to being simply silver plated.

Gratton was at the Japanese prime minister's office on Sept. 11 to speak at the first meeting of the "council for the vision for an era of 100-year lifespans," a new task force inaugurated by the Abe administration.

Noting that Japan's traditional society has a "monolinear" structure under which people receive education, join the work force and then retire, Gratton pointed out the need for Japan to become a more flexible society where people can move freely back and forth between education, work and home life.

I suppose Gratton could be a perfect "adviser" for the task force, the aim of which is to push the Abe administration's new pet policy of "revolutionizing" human resources development in Japan.

But I am skeptical about the future of this initiative given how the Abe administration's earlier pet policies have fared to date. Is the administration already about to take down its slogan of "promoting dynamic engagement of all citizens"? And what about that call for "a society where women shine"?

In her 2011 publication titled "The Shift: The Future of Work is Already Here," Gratton notes that while our professional lives go on for decades, government leaders take the short-sighted approach of seeing them in spans of less than a decade, and are reluctant to inform the public of the unpleasant truth of the future regarding funding for social security programs and other matters.

These are harsh words for the Abe administration, which changes its pet policies frequently and arbitrarily while postponing tax hikes that are necessary for funding the social security system.

Gratton wrote "The Shift" six years ago, and the accuracy of her predictions surprises me.

Is the Abe administration capable of following through with a solid initiative befitting this era of people living to be 100 years old, or will it turn out to be only a cheaply gilded stopgap policy?

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 12

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.