Whew -- talk about depressing headlines: "A great prophesy of Japan's demise. The frightening result of depopulation."
Then Shukan Jitsuwa (July 14) fearlessly plows ahead with the bad news. First of all, let's look at a paper on population statistics from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare issued on June 3. After noting that 811,604 new infants were born in Japan during 2021, it pointed out that the average number of births per female had dropped for the sixth straight year, to 1.30.
With the acceleration of Japan's already low birth rate and aging of its population, the nation's future, in Shukan Jitsuwa's words, is zetsuboteki (hopeless).
"Twenty years from now, we'll be looking at a shortfall of 2 million care providers for the elderly," predicts professor Masahiro Yamada of Chuo University. "To fill that number would require half of the nation's new graduates every year. Paying costs for care won't be difficult for the wealthy, but for the rest, it won't be feasible. We'll be faced with the choice of either reducing services or relying on foreign labor; but as Japan becomes poorer, I don't know how we'll get foreign workers to come here."
The present situation, of elderly people caring for other elderly, has become a common occurrence, and this can only get worse, frets the writer, so increasing cases of kodokushi (dying alone) can be expected.
On May 7, Tesla CEO Elon Musk -- not exactly a Japan expert -- made headlines with a tweet that read, "At the risk of stating the obvious, unless something changes to cause the birthrate to exceed the death rate, Japan will eventually cease to exist. This would be a great loss for the world."
Part of the looming problem will be caused by the huge demographic bulge of the postwar baby boomers, born between 1947 to 1949, who are now turning 75 years of age. With the decline in hospital beds, as people in this group begin to die out, 400,000 or more stand to become "refugees with no place to die."
If the present trend continues, by 2040, Japan will have become a "super-aged society," in which the burden of supporting an elderly person will fall on one out of every 1.5 households.
While numerous factors figure in population decline, one of the main causes is clearly shortsighted policies aimed at encouraging families to procreate. According to a survey by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2017, Japan's outlays for child rearing relative to GDP were 1.79% -- below the OECD member average of 2.34% and, for example, less than half of the 3.6% spent by France.
"Take Hungary, for example, which to deal with a decline in births devotes just under 5% of its GDP to families," points out the aforementioned professor Yamada. "School tuition there is free, and home purchases are generously subsidized. In the case a fourth child is born, the family's taxes are permanently exempted.
"For Japan to match European countries in measures to encourage the birth rate, it would need to devote a quarter of its national budget," he added.
What's the main cause of decline in the country's birthrate? As Yamada puts it, "There have only been small, incremental changes in Japan's societal values from its postwar period of high economic growth, when the prevailing view was, 'the husbands went to work, and the wives remained home and did housework.'"
The magazine noted that in the run-up to the July 10 elections, none of the major parties proposed any new changes to their population policies, so whichever party wins will be moot. Japan, clearly, has embarked on a road to ruin.© Japan Today