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Japan's population falls for 8th straight year in 2014

45 Comments

Japan's population fell by a record 268,000 in 2013, according to health ministry estimates released on Thursday, highlighting concerns over an ever-dwindling workforce supporting a growing number of pensioners.

The ministry said an estimated 1,001,000 babies were born in 2014, down about 29,000 from 2013, a decline for the 8th straight year.

The number of recorded deaths was 1,269,000, the highest since the end of World War II, the ministry said.

Japan is rapidly graying, with more than 20% of the population aged 65 or over -- one of the highest proportions of elderly people in the world. The country has very little immigration and any suggestion of opening its borders to young workers who could help plug the population gap provokes strong reactions among the public.

The proportion of people aged 65 or over will reach nearly 40% of the population in 2060, according to a 2012 government report.

In other statistics released by the ministry, a record low 649,000 couples got married in 2014, while 222,000 couples filed for divorce.

© Japan Today/AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

45 Comments
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A million babies in a population of 130m? Yikes!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

This information must be considered in connection with PM Abe's New years pledge to revise the regional economies, where demographic change is even greater. If only all his hot air would be enough to warm us on these cold winter days.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

No surprises to be had here. Only a open national debate into the underlining causes can fully address and reverse this catastrophic trend. A society that is crying out for inclusion in government, in economic and social mobility. Young couples need to feel the benefits of Abenomics not to be constantly force fed the platitudes and rhetoric.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Not a bad thing. Wake me up when the demographics situation starts to cause real economic or social harm.

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

"The country has very little immigration and any suggestion of opening its borders to young workers who could help plug the population gap provokes strong reactions among the public."

Keep those barbarians out, lol!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

This is a good thing.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Actually, if this keeps up, I might be able to get a good standing position on Yamanote sen at 9:45am, lol.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oshin (:おしん) is a Japanese serialized television drama, which, I personaly think, every Japanese Young dude must see.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If managed by careful forward thinking policies that don't simply put econimic growth above all other quality of life issues, population fall is a great opportunity for a country to increase it's quality of life.

And when added to the backdrop of global population having inreased way beyond the planet's sustainable capacity (given the consumption habits of developed econimies) ... ...

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I honestly can't see why it's so terrible to have a reduction in the population. Sure, there may be some problems in the short-term, but in the long term, I see a more relaxed way of life without people cramming into small spaces everywhere, and god forbid, people being able to have larger apartments. As ifd66 says, this planet cannot cope with an ever increasing population. A friend once remarked that the planet was more than capable of providing resources for an "infinite" population, despite being a fellow science graduate, but then again he was catholic. While totally against forced abortions, I think China was right to put some sort of limitation on the number of births per family, albeit only on the Han population. I just worry about India.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

"I honestly can't see why it's so terrible to have a reduction in the population."

For example, getting a good standing position on the Yamanote sen at 9:45am.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

After a long career of teaching in Japan I am cheerfully adding to the problem. Pensions are down 15-20% from about 20 years ago and look like getting worse. As the working population decreases the number of retired people increases. The system is basically unsound since contributions of current workers are used to pay the pensions of retired workers and the fund is dropping way down.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

pukey,

I would agree that a dropping population in Japan would be good IF IF IF IF the powers that be had a clue as to what was going on, but clearly they do NOT!

Its all being managed about a wrong as you can get! If the population pyramid wasn't so inverted it would be easier to manage but the number of newborns is going to plummet unless the powers that be get the acts together, which is highly unlikely.............

So Japan is setting itself up for some VERY severe pain & I think it will be coming a LOT sooner then the fools in govt predict. Japan social systems are already shot, I seriously doubt we are getting anywhere near the truth of Japans finances which are a black hole at best, clear as mud, I imagine its MUCH worse than what we are being told because the bureaucrats ALWAYS are over optimistic with their "predictions" hell just look at the 2020 Olympics, Japan says they are over flowing with $$$$$$$$$$$$$, they win & all of a sudden EVERYTHING is massively under budgeted, funds aren't there.

I am telling you all the govt is BS'ing the country BIG TIME with regards to Japans financial state & of course its getting worse by the day!

Japan is the experiment the rest of the world is watching!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

1,001,000 - 1,269,000 = - 268,000. Easy calculation, but what about immigration/emigration....however small ?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The US; unlike Japan, is solely based on immigration, due to its colonial origins needed a vibrant immigration from different parts of, mainly, Western Europe. The Native population had been relegated to the outcrop of the most destitute of lands, the reservations (Bantustans) systems of containment of the Native Indian communities. If Japan opens itself to immigration; how does one define what it means to be Japanese? In "America" anyone can become an American. A person can be born in England and immigrate to New York and instantly change their national identity and become an American. Would opening up the gates of Immigration make Japanese a minority in Japan? I don't know what it feels like to be an immigrant; my family was brought to America as slaves. I can't say that I am African because I have been here for over one hundred years. When someone choses to immigrate to another country; does that automatically make him (her) that nationality? Why does the powers that be in Japan see humans as just workers, and why don't they see their own people as human. "...highlighting concerns over an ever-dwindling workforce supporting a growing number of pensioners." Are Japanese a dying people? There are 14 million people in New York, but 99% are from immigrate stock.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Social security in this country is a joke. People can only provide some security for themselves by saving, saving. putting money in the bank which is loaned to corporations at ridiculous low interests. Many families are broken up by companies shuffling their employees, especially men, all around the country or sent overseas for years at a time. How is that for happy (pro)creating families? Lowering pension pay-outs year by year is not exactly a signal to the nation to increase spending, stimulating the economy.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Japan do have the option and control to keep the close immigration policy but they will have no control on migration, how much taxes a young worker would be able to pay and how many pensioners a young worker have to support, of course there would be a limit and the young worker will have no option but to leave the country. The ghost towns are already appearing in the countryside.

The problem here is harsh and real but all the solutions are assumptions in the air. The maintenance of the gigantic infrastructure of Japan, the huge and growing cost of the health and welfare, the making of the proposed Army force, the huge national debts, business competition with the world, tension with the neighbors and wrestling with the natural disasters, these all need a large work force and money. what is the option ?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I honestly can't see why it's so terrible to have a reduction in the population.

It is terrible because the government's pension scheme was designed around an ever growing number of people to fund the system. Without population growth, Japan's pension system must eventually collapse, which is going to be catastrophic when pensioners make up the greater part of the economy. In order to delay the inevitable, the government will raise taxes, print money, sell bonds to itself... Oh, wait, these things are already happening.

Not a bad thing. Wake me up when the demographics situation starts to cause real economic or social harm.

Silly fool... You are surrounded by economic and social harm.

5 ( +12 / -7 )

Japan needs to open up immigration in a big way.

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

Come on it's all heading towards a disaster the trigger, take your pick 7 decades of LDP, nepotism, inflexible beauracrats, tax exemptions for big companies but tax increase on jo average. Limited information in the media. Decreasing tax base while increasing there burden to pay the money's that the government spend. does anyone expect this to end well.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

What is the percentage of the population that are not Japanese in Japan? That is the problem. Japan needs immigrants to increase population.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Without exception, all developed countries have declining populations. As for Japan allowing immigrants into their country, Hell no. I want Japan to stay Japan.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Here's what needs to happen:

Lower taxes on lower income people; raise taxes on the rich and corporations. Screw the tax incentives for rich corporation, because that's just plain corporatist BS. Give tax incentives for couples to have hildren; more children, more tax breaks. Better education and social help for young families to reduce infanticide and child murders. More incentives and help for mother's with unwanted pregnancies to put their child up for adoption rather than opt for abortion. Harsher penalties for bullying,especially those that result in victims committing suicide.

just a thought....

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Immigration is unfortunately not the silver bullet. You only need to look at Europe to see that.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

JeffLee Jan. 01, 2015 - 05:32PM JST Not a bad thing. Wake me up when the demographics situation starts to cause real economic or social harm.

There's a story about a frog who is invited by a fox to take a bath in some warm water over a small fire, and as the water gets warmer and warmer the frog slips into a deep sleep and dies.

You're that frog. The economic and social harm from this problem isn't going to manifest suddenly, but rather is ongoing and is incremental. Just look at the slow and steady rise in pension payments, but the decrease in pension payouts. The rise in consumption tax but decrease in public spending. The list of examples is endless.

There is an overall pattern of slow, incremental, negative change across Japan in dozens of areas, but most people don't realise it is happening because it doesn't arrive in a single envelope with a large number entitled, "The Bill for Japan's Elderly" written neatly on the front.

The water is getting slowly warmer and warmer and, like the frog, to many people are just content to enjoy the bath.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Excellent comments here there are, especially by: Kristianna Thomas , Presto345 and Mirai Hayashi.

The problem isn't the fall in population per se, but the rapid shift in demographics toward older people who are retiring. Govt. pension reform should have taken place over 15 years ago. The age of getting a pension should have been raised to 65-68 years ago!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I learn so much from the JT comments pages. You people are smart. I'd like to say, "quality over quantity," but this downward spiral sounds like a disaster. The frog is dozing off.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Ok, here's my idea to solve the problem: Put away the cel phones and pay attention to your girlfriend, wife! At this rate, the family bath houses will only have 2 family members! Well, that's my idea.

"Happy New Years " to all my friends on Japan Today.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The cost borne by a family for raising each child is nearly linear in Japan: no buying in bulk really possible (need to go to costco, but there are so few), child allowances are so low that it is an insult (10000 yen/month, except under 3 : 15000 yen/month and I think it is dropping with age instead of rising), half price for shinkansen for children but no price for families (i.e. If you have 3 or more, you need to be filthy rich to travel), very litlle accomodations places where to go traveling, the school burden way of life for which parents are prisoners of the system, etc. Paradise for singles and couples sure.

By the way, for those with limited skills in maths, population change is geometric with long period, meaning that the drop will accelerate quicker and quicker without possibility to counterbalance figures before 25 years at least. Without robots everywhere, Japan will be total failure: all jobs done by the educated and docile elderly nearly for free will no longer exist.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I remember discussing divorce with a Japanese person back around 1984.... she was almost superior in her attitude that a 30% American divorce rate was something that was peculiar to America only. I hadn't brought up the subject but I do remember saying that, while divorce is a very unfortunate thing, the high rate of divorce in the U.S. was possibly a more normal figure when the stigma of divorce did not prevent it and when women had more opportunity to stand on their own two feet without a man's support. Here we are 30 years later with Abe clamoring for more female participation in business and Japan's divorce rate at roughly 30%. As an American, without the mental confinement of a culture over 2,000 years old, it was easy for me to see change.... but for the woman I was speaking with at the time.... she could not fathom it. There are times when deep ingrained culture supports growth and progress..... like in the 80's when everyone looked up to MITI and the idea that Japan's corporations were planning for the next 10 to 20 years... and others when change comes quickly and the chains of culture only inhibit progress and a competitive edge.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"It is terrible because the government's pension scheme was designed around an ever growing number of people to fund the system."

Yes, it was designed BEFORE Japan adopted a free-floating fiat currency. Too bad people failed to adopt their mindset to match the new reality. Hello, Japan's public finances are NOT constrained by revenues...and that IS a fact.

"You are surrounded by economic and social harm."

No, I'm not. In the 20 years since being in Japan, I've seen a rise in living standards. Better infrastructure, services, housing, and yes, social services. 3 brand new hospitals have recently been built in my area.

Japan's main negative trend is employment...like destruction of the lifetime employment system and the "working poor." But that is the result of "structural reforms," pushed by the free-market people, NOT demographics.

All of posters here are relying on projections and supposition,,,but with great conviction! I'm one of the few people here pointing to...er... reality.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

That indeed is a serious matter of concern to the government of a country which occupies a prime place in the world economy! What it will lead to in the next two decades or so though is unpredictable - to Japan as well as to the entire world! One option which is already progressing is to locate most of its manufacturing operations to other countries such as India shaping into powerful economies!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Coming up...more govt panels to have more discussions,coming up with in the sky targets and goals without any practical policies to actually get there. I think the most ridiculous one i heard is the city halls adressing falling birth rate by setting up " match making " offices/ agencies to assist youngsters to get married. As if that is the main problem and not the cost of living / bringing up the child. But im sure initiatives" like this keep the 60+ bureaucrats/amakudari gand happy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Japanese superiority complex and their inflexibility and unwillingness to change and open themselves to immigration will eventually result in their demise.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

A shrinking population does not necessarily imply a net reduction in standard of living. The per capita national income could be maintained by technological advance. However, income may distribute to fewer hands due to the advanced skills required.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

So sad that there are people here that don't see the problems with Japan's demographics. Sure, less people would be great if you could get rid of the elderly and the homeless. The problem is those are the groups that are increasing, not decreasing. Heard of the lost decades? Why do you think Japan has the highest debt among developed economies? Only young people are leaving this sinking ship of a country.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

LOL...a load of people who were given working visas simply due to being able to (barely) conduct a conversation in their native language are whining about Japanese attitudes towards immigration! How easy is it for a Japanese to get a working visa in your countries? Takes more than being monolingual and having a 4 year degree in basket weaving I'd wager.

Don't know what Japan you are all living in but in the real one immigration is increasing, the government supports it and it'll continue as long as demographics dictate it.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Maybe the islands of Japan are simply too small to support the current population which might bottom out at around 100,000,000 people.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@innit - LOL, the immigration is increasing and government supports it..ROFL...mate the only immigration category that is increasing is the slave labour under the pretence of " trainee " programs and some Asian brides for the aging boys in the countryside. How many professionals came under the govt. trumpeted skilled business visa program? A complete failure. At any rate given the immigration numbers as a percentage of J-population these are negligible comparing to other developed countries battling their own demographic problems.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Far too much immigration is provoking the growth of the UKIP in the UK.

Tolerant Brits are slowly turning against the newcomers, with the risk of a serious rupture with Europe and the UK's eventual departure from it.

France, Italy and Germany, all seeing the rise of neo-fascism, thanks to immigration!

Japan is not blind!

The country should never allow uncontrolled immigration.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

A shrinking population does not necessarily imply a net reduction in standard of living. The per capita national income could be maintained by technological advance.

This is a joke. The huge number of elderly are contributing 0 to production (not that they should, necessarily). Who is going to do the producing of income in Japan? Robots? The few examples I've seen can barely walk or understand humans effectively, let alone take care of the nursing home residents. Illiterate in Japanese foreigners would do a better job. A pipe dream you have there, my friend.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I live in north-central West Virginia and literally over a quarter of the population is past retirement age. Only Florida has a higher percentage. I honestly hope if I finally get to live my dream of living in Japan that it's not just full of old people.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The huge number of elderly are contributing 0 to production (not that they should, necessarily). Who is going to do the producing of income in Japan? Robots? The few examples I've seen can barely walk or understand humans effectively, let alone take care of the nursing home residents. Illiterate in Japanese foreigners would do a better job.

I guess you imply that illiterate foreigners could be helpful to the elderly until they stay too long and become one of the elderly. An aging demographic is a societal headwind but could be offset by a sufficiently skilled workforce. Unfortunately Japan is at present too xenophobic to allow immigration, including the highly educated/skilled.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Many families are broken up by companies shuffling their employees, especially men, all around the country or sent overseas for years at a time. How is that for happy (pro)creating families?

Absolutely true. I a living here in the US with my Japanese husband sent overseas and I refused to stay behind. Im in the minority though, and we are regularly visited by lonely Japanese male coworkers whose families are back home. There are three driving factors for it: 1) fear of "the outside". 2) Japanese education being the "best in the world" and therefore cant leave, especially with older kids and 3) often the companies wont pay for or subsidise families in any way or offer them any help - intimidating for your average Taro and his monolingual wife.

How easy is it for a Japanese to get a working visa in your countries? Takes more than being monolingual and having a 4 year degree in basket weaving I'd wager.

Absolutely true. I was amazed how easy/cheap/quick it was to get my working holiday visa, spouse visas, and finally PR. Back in MY country? Not a chance. The red tape and cost was just too prohibitive. Easier to get into America than my own country!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Unpreparedness seems the term. But i also think that there should be educational reforms as well, seeing there's a strained number of intelligentsia leaving the country = (insert reasons here)

for that, it's about as an individual having the passion to pursue his interests! (that depends on the interest, whether it helps Japan in a long or short run)....But we don't have that individualistic notion anymore, in fact when we come to Japan, we are all greeted with collectivism. "community says no, so i have to be forced to say no as well".... but what if, what if you see it as really important to you? It may even be important to the community in the future? So why not... have "both/everyone benefits from this"> oh... hoho. wait, i know this is unrealistic, but it reminds me of that "Brain Drain" problem in the "political-simulator" called Democracy 3.

We've gotta also think about the contemporary culture.... what about the shut-in's? The nerds? Those that just.. "sekkusu kyomi ga nai..." and to what men would refuse....urgh, i don't know. I don't want to simplify everything here, but a lack of effort it seems, that the situation has embalmed with itself.

Meanwhile, it's all living on the edge now.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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