Demographics for 2030 look bleak in Japan

Ageing Japan is becoming a lonely Japan.

By 2030 living in Japan will be a lonely experience according to the Asahi Shimbun:

  • One in three men and one in 5 women would have never married by age 50
  • 25% of men and over 40% of the total population between 50 and 70 will be living alone
  • Single-member households will be especially pronounced among men who were the children of the baby-boomer generation and who will enter middle age in 2030.
  • Single person households exceed multi-person households already and this trend will continue
  • Among women born in 1990, it is estimated that more than one-third will not bear children and that half will not have grandchildren
  • Fertility rate which was at the sustainable level of 2.1 in 1960 has been below this level since 1976 reaching a low of 1.26 in 2005
  • There will be over 300,000 people aged 100 and over
  • The ratio of just under 3 working age population for each retired person will decrease to less than 2
  • Working age population will decline by about 14 million

Japanese population development: graphic

Japan has few options except to open up its borders to immigration but this seems to be a subject that no political party or politician is prepared to face squarely. Instead the discussion veers off into trade alliances instead or restricting immigration to just skilled workers and only very specialised skills at that. The European experiences are often quoted as examples of the dangers of allowing immigration from Muslim countries. The extremely difficult (but flexible) residency and naturalisation regulations continue to be used to prevent the millions of immigrants from the Philippines, S. Korea, China, Indonesia and Malaysia already in the country from ever really settling in Japan. This even though all are aware that the functioning of Japanese society is already critically dependent upon these “less-skilled” workers.

That Japan needs a real leader as Prime Minister who can get the majority to face up to the difficult choices and carry them with him is apparent. There was a hope that Koizumi Jun’ichirō might be such a person when he was PM (3 times between 2001 and 2006) but he too drowned in the political quicksand. Perhaps it is a task for the Emperor together with the right Prime Minister. But it would need an Emperor prepared to appeal directly to his people and not be stifled by those of his Court.

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One Response to “Demographics for 2030 look bleak in Japan”

  1. Mike Says:

    Although not explicitly stated, the underlying assumption here is that the demographic change is close to catastophic and needs to be reversed with some urgency. This is a very narrow minded and simplistic view of the situation and one that further assumes that the only possible desirable outcome is the growth oriented consumerist society that has developed in response to industrialisation and that has relied on cheap resources and and energy to prosper over the last 100 years. There are many reasons for the change in demographics, not just in Japan, but in more and more countries around the world and there can, and will be, many societal responses to these. To suggest that the only way Japan and others can address these issues is to effectively import productive-age workers or breeding-stock is disengenuous.

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