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The Japanese population is rapidly declining.
The population has lost almost one million people over the past five years.
This decline has been long predicted by demographers but the world’s third largest economy has been unable to find a solution.
The situation is dire and hard to overstate.
If Japan can’t start having many more babies then the country will face great challenges later on in the century. These challenges could undermine the very core of the country’s social order.
Japan has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, 1.41 children per woman in 2012.
As a result, the number of people 65 and over has increased from 12.1% in 1990 to 26% in 2014.
Furthermore, estimates put Japan’s retirement age population at 40% of the total national population by 2060.
This would likely put a tremendous burden on Japan’s social safety net, state pensions alone being ¥792,100 per year ($6,960.76). This accounts for nearly 33% of Japan’s national budget in 2015 and it will only continue to balloon as the years roll on.
Having to cope with close to half of your population being in need of geriatric care is not a problem exclusive to Japan.
China recently revoked and replaced its One Child Policy, with the Two Child Policy.
In part this is to combat China’s low fertility rates, 1.66 births per woman, and in part to counter act the imbalance between the number of men and women, a 30 million person disparity.
Other low fertility countries include, but are not limited to: Singapore (0.81), South Korea (1.18), Germany (1.44), Russia (1.61), The United States (1.87), and the United Kingdom (1.89). All of these nations have fertility rates incapable of sustaining their current populations without immigration helping to offset the disparity.
Elderly populations then are not only a threat to the economic growth of Japan, but to advanced economies in general.
It would then seem that in order to combat global population decline, and with a greater number of developing nations creating advanced economies, nations may need to compete for immigrants in order to sustain their populations.
This may be particularly difficult for Japan, due to the relative difficulty in learning its national language, and a culture that is not as used to welcoming immigrants as many of its potential competitors.
Of course the other way for Japan to get back to an equilibrium in terms of old and young is to have young people have more children- lots more children. The government has tried many different methods, including offering to pay parents to have kids, but it has had little impact.
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Cover Photo Credit: Freedom II Andres/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)