FlyTitle: Ageing in Japan

预备,撑好手杖,开火 Ready, cane, fire-书迷号 shumihao.comJapan’s army is greying. It may have to draft more robots

日本军队日益老龄化。它可能不得不部署更多机器人

BRIGHT YOUNG faces gaze out from a recruitment poster on the thick grey walls of the Defence Ministry in central Tokyo. But in greying Japan, finding enough youngsters to fill the ranks has become, by the ministry’s own admission, “an imminent challenge”. The number of Japanese between 18 and 26 years old, long the prime recruiting pool, peaked at 17m in 1994. It has since fallen to 11m. By 2050 it will sink below 8m. “Young blood is what all militaries need, and it’s exactly what we’re lacking,” says Yamaguchi Noboru, a retired lieutenant-general in the Self-Defence Forces (SDF), as the country calls its army, in deference to its pacifist constitution.

在位于东京市中心的日本防卫省,灰色厚墙上贴着征兵海报,上面一张张充满朝气的面庞凝视着远方。但是在人口老龄化的日本,防卫省自己也承认,找到足够多的年轻人来补充兵员已成为“迫在眉睫的挑战”。长期以来,18至26岁的日本人一直是征兵的主要对象,但这个人群在1994年达到1700万人的峰值,之后不断下降至1100万,到2050年还将跌破800万。“所有军队都需要年轻的血液,而我们就缺这个。”日本自卫队退役中将山口升说。根据和平宪法,日本称自己的军队为“自卫队”。

The SDF has missed its recruiting targets every year since 2014, reaching just 72% of its goal in 2018. It fields only 227,000 of the 247,000 troops it budgets for, a shortfall of 8%. Among the lowest ranks, the gap is over 25%. Low pay, harsh conditions and the limited prestige of soldiering in a peacenik nation with little unemployment always made recruiting hard, but demography compounds the difficulties. The inverted population pyramid ought to worry Japan as much as Chinese expansionism or North Korean missiles, argues Robert Eldridge, an American former military official and the author of a book in Japanese on demography and the armed forces: “Demographic change is not just an economic issue, it’s a national-defence issue.”

自2014年以来,自卫队每年都没能完成征兵目标,2018年仅达成目标的72%。预算员额为24.7万人,实际只有22.7万人,缺口为8%。基层士兵缺口更是超过25%。工资低、工作环境严酷,加上在一个失业率很低的反战国家服役没那么受人尊敬,征兵工作一直困难重重,而如今人口结构问题更是雪上加霜。美国前军事官员罗伯特·埃尔德里奇(Robert Eldridge)曾用日语写过一本关于人口和军队的书,他认为日本应该像担心中国扩张和朝鲜的导弹那样担心本国倒金字塔形的人口结构,“人口结构变化不仅仅是一个经济问题,也是国防问题”。

The army is using many of the same strategies as private companies to cope with an ageing workforce. “Just like the rest of Japan, the SDF is trying to see what AI and robotics can do for them,” says Sheila Smith of the Council on Foreign Relations, an American think-tank. The government has announced plans to acquire and develop new unmanned aircraft and submarines. While these will be for surveillance, “the next step is strike capability”, says Nagashima Akihisa, a government MP and former deputy defence minister.

自卫队正在使用很多和私营企业一样的策略来应对劳动力老龄化的困境。“就和日本其他所有领域一样,自卫队想看看人工智能和机器人技术能为他们做些什么。”美国智库外交关系委员会(Council on Foreign Relations)的希拉·史密斯(Sheila Smith)说。政府已经宣布了采购和研发新型无人机和无人潜艇的计划。这些装备会用于监视,但“下一步就是打击能力”,日本国会议员、前防卫省副大臣长岛昭久表示。

But persuading politicians to fund the development and deployment of offensive weapons is hard in a country whose constitution states, “The Japanese people forever renounce war.” Nor is technology a panacea for personnel shortfalls, notes Koda Yoji, a retired vice-admiral. Drones and robots require operators and skilled engineers—the sort of people the SDF already has trouble attracting. A cyberdefence unit set up in 2014 has only 220 members.

但在一个宪法规定“日本人民永远放弃战争”的国家,要说服政客资助开发和部署攻击性武器很难。退役海军中将香田洋二指出,技术也不是解决人员短缺的灵丹妙药。无人机和机器人需要操作员和熟练的工程师,而自卫队已经很难吸引到这些人。2014年成立的网络防御部门目前只有220人。

An alternative is to expand the pool of potential personnel. Female troops used to be confined to non-combat roles such as nursing and administration, but in recent years the high command has allowed them to fly fighter jets and drive tanks, among other things; soon they will be allowed to sail on submarines. At the defence ministry, officers speak of “work-life balance” and stress family-friendly perks such as an on-site day-care centre. Yet progress has been slow: women made up just 7% of Japan’s armed forces in 2018, compared with an average of 11% among NATO countries. And the government’s goals are modest: to increase the share to 9% by 2030. The National Defence Academy caps the number of women it admits at 15%. Sexist attitudes about roles in the army still prevail, says Sato Fumika of Hitotsubashi University. In the SDF’s recruiting pamphlets, the pages that focus on women are printed on pink backgrounds.

一个替代方案是扩大潜在兵源。女兵们过去被限制在护理和行政这类非战斗职位上,但近年最高指挥部已经允许她们驾驶战斗机、开坦克,很快还会让她们登上潜艇。在防卫省,官员们谈论着“工作与生活的平衡”,强调方便照顾家庭的待遇,比如在防卫省内部设有一个日托中心。但进展很缓慢:2018年女性在日本军队中占7%,而在北约国家平均为11%。政府的目标并不高:到2030年提高到9%。日本防卫大学把招收女生的上限设定在15%。一桥大学的佐藤文香认为,有关军队岗位的性别歧视态度仍然盛行。在自卫队的征兵宣传册中,针对女性的页面都使用了粉红色的背景。

Another way to keep up the numbers is simply to tolerate older soldiers. In 2018 the SDF raised the maximum age for new recruits from 26 to 32, the first increase since 1990. This year the retirement age for senior officers will start rising gradually. Older soldiers can focus on maintenance, logistics and training, thus freeing younger troops to concentrate on more muscular missions. Experienced soldiers may even bring advantages in “new domains and new frontiers” of warfare, where physical prowess matters less, says Colonel Kagoshima Hiroshi, who works in recruitment. Those past retirement age are encouraged to continue working for reduced pay. As Nagaiwa Toshimichi, a retired lieutenant-general, laughs, “I’m 71 years old, but I’m ready to fight.” He is only half-joking. ■

另一个维持人数的办法是直接把年龄限制放宽。2018年自卫队将征兵年龄上限从26岁提高到32岁,这是自1990年以来首次提高。今年起高级军官的退役年龄将开始逐步推迟。年长的士兵可以主要从事维护、后勤和培训,这样就可以解放年轻士兵,让他们把精力集中在更需要体力的任务上。从事征兵工作的上校鹿儿岛浩表示,经验丰富的士兵甚至可能在战争的“新领域和新前沿”上带来优势,在这些领域体能并没那么重要。那些过了退役年龄的人还被鼓励继续工作,拿低一些的工资。退役中将长井俊一笑着说:“我71岁了,但我已做好战斗的准备。”他并不全然是开玩笑。