Nationwide Petition for Number Portability System
In 2003, New Komeito asked the government and cellular phone industry whether a system in which a subscriber can switch carriers without having to change his existing phone number-or number portability-could be adopted. Their answer: Too costly to implement. Yet, such a system, we believed, would upgrade user friendliness and drive down cell phone charges as carriers vied for customers. Rather than wasting time with wrangling with an obstinate industry and bureaucracy, New Komeito kicked off a nationwide petition drive instead. Three years and 10 million signatures later, a number portability system was launched on October 24, 2006-and in just 30 days since its inception, some 680,000 users took advantage of the system.
Finding Jobs for Youth
New Komeito played a pivotal role in the 2004 launch of a one-stop placement service catering specifically to young people, providing information on openings, occupational counseling and even career experience for interested applicants. Better known as "job cafés," the service represents a serious government effort, led by our party, to tackle the issue of unemployed and underemployed youth. More than 4 million people have used the service and more than 200,000 have found work as of January 2007 through 95 facilities set up in 46 of the 47 prefectures nationwide. Work counselors and staff engage every applicant on a face-to-face, step-by-step basis-a process designed not to put off or discourage young applicants. The job café is also giving rise to new networks, linking up with businesses, local governments, schools, and non-profit groups, in addition to other public and private placement services-spurring a larger effort to develop local communities. Meanwhile, plans are underway to create job cafés for women and older applicants, while the government and private sector will collaborate in jointly operated job cafés in the future.
Incubating Venture Businesses
New Komeito successfully lobbied for a government initiative to incubate startup businesses launched by universities through proprietary research and researchers or by entrepreneurs using university research and talent. The initiative, which was adopted in fiscal 2002, aimed to create 1,000 startups in biotechnology, IT and other high-tech fields over a three-year period. As of fiscal 2005, 1,503 had been launched, employing 26,000 people and generating annual sales of 364.2 billion yen.
Promoting Local Tourism
New Komeito has been an active proponent of developing the tourism industry to create revenue, jobs and new businesses by capitalizing on attractions unique to regional and local communities. We helped jumpstart the Visit Japan campaign, which aims to attract 10 million visitors from abroad annually by 2010. When the campaign was launched in 2003, there were 5.21 million foreign tourists coming to Japan; in 2006, that number rose to 7.33 million.
Specially Deregulated Zones
In 2002, we were the most vocal proponents in the coalition government to establish "special administrative reform zones" in designated areas where government regulations were either eased or lifted-a move that was strenuously opposed by bureaucrats. While many of the zones-910 have been established throughout Japan to date-are largely experimental, their primary goal is to leverage unique local foods, liquor, as well as cultural and historical attractions, into a host of new businesses, products and services that were previously unthinkable amid the thicket of ordinances and regulations.
Community Development Grants
Under a 2004 program that New Komeito was instrumental in implementing, communities can secure government grants to create development plans that specifically address local needs and leverage local strengths and resources. As a result, local governments are now free to allocate public funds to renewal projects and renovations to historical landmarks and other tourist attractions as they see fit.