Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Demographic Decline In Japan

Japan’s working-age population (15-64) peaked in 1995, while the United States’ has grown 21% since then. The projections for Japan are alarming: its working-age population will drop from 79 million today to less than 52 million in 2050, according to the Stanford Institute on Longevity. 
Since hitting a peak of 128 million in 2010, Japan’s overall population has dropped three years in a row. 
These trends all but guarantee the long-term decline of the Japanese economy and its society. In comparison, competitors such as the United States and India are projected to continue to grow their workforces over the long term. China’s workforce, which grew rapidly over the last couple of decades, recently began to decline, as early as 2010 by one estimate, due to its one-child policy. 
Some countries, like Germany or Singapore, have tried to make up for low fertility through immigration, something that remains all but unthinkable in congenitally insular Japan. Short-term importation of workers has occurred through a “foreign trainee” program, but it has stirred controversy, with some immigrant workers claiming they are being cheated and abused. 
Aging is becoming a bigger issue, particularly due to the country’s average lifespan of 83 years, which is among the longest in the world. Perhaps if everyone would have the good sense, as one Japanese official put it, to “hurry up and die,” the shrinkage would be manageable. 
But old Japanese don’t seem to be lining up to commit suicide. So by 2020, adult diapers are projected to outsell the infant kind. By 2040, the country will have more people over 80 than under 15, according to U.N. projections. By 2060, the number of Japanese is expected to fall from 127 million today to about 87 million, of whom almost 40% will be 65 or older. 
The fiscal costs are obvious. Over the past few decades, aging has helped transform once thrifty Japan into the country with the high-income world’s highest level of government debt.
 The result is a slowing economy. And other Asian countries are expected to soon be following it--most precipitously, China.

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