Japan's population to fall by third in 50 years
Unprecedented threat to economy, healthcare and culture as numbers plummet by 41 million
Japan's government yesterday released stark new evidence that the nation is on the brink of a demographic crisis, forecasting that its population will shrink by 30 per cent in the next half-century, while soaring life expectancy will further burden the state.
The report estimates that by 2060 the number of people in the Asian powerhouse will have fallen from 128 million to about 87 million, of which almost 40 per cent will be 65 or older. The report by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research warns that by 2110 the number of Japanese could plummet to 42.9 million – a third of the current population – "if things remain unchanged".
Japan's population began falling in 2004 and is ageing faster than any other on the planet. More than 22 per cent of Japanese are already 65 or older and women will have roughly 1.3 children, well below the population replacement rate. Experts have warned for years that the inverted population pyramid is a harbinger of economic and social disaster, but the institute's prediction is one of the grimmest yet.
The report will also have ramifications for other developed nations grappling with similar logistics of citizens having smaller families and living longer. "This is Japan's biggest problem," said Florian Coulmas, who heads the Tokyo-based German Institute for Japanese Studies. "It affects every aspect of the country's society, economy, culture and polity. Japan is ahead of the rest of the world. That requires adjustments that no other country has had to make in the absence of war, epidemics or famine. But Japanese politics is totally incompetent. The politicians haven't woken up to the fact that this is a national crisis."
Japan's low birthrate is not seriously out of kilter with the rest of the developed world, but the country is unusual among its economic competitors in shunning mass immigration – roughly 2 per cent of the population is classed as "foreign".
The shrinking and ageing population means the government will struggle to cope with ballooning social welfare costs, and to pay for Japan's enormous public debt – at $12 trillion, the worst in the industrialised world.
Yesterday's report predicts that Japanese women will live, on average, to 90.93 years in 2060, up from 86.39 years, and men will live to 84.19, up from 79.64. "The trend of the ageing society will continue and it is hard to expect the birth rate to rise significantly," said the government's spokesman, Osamu Fujimura.
The earthquake and tsunami last March and the costs of cleaning up after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown have added to the burdens on state coffers. The disasters – which killed more than 19,000 people – caused a short-term dip in average life expectancy in 2010.
Japan's leading business federation, Keidanren, has for years called for importing up to six million foreign workers. And a report in 2007 by a prominent group of conservative politicians said: "In order for Japan to survive, it must open its doors as an international state to the world and shift toward ... accepting immigrants."
In the meantime, millions of young Japanese are putting off marriage and childbirth until their thirties, forcing governments in some rural areas to set up matchmaking agencies.
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£12 - £14 per hour: Recruitment Genius: We are looking for someone to join a s...
£15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...
£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This market leader in Medical Devices is...
£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...