The consequences of Japan’s shrinking
15 May 2016
Author: Shiro Armstrong, ANU
Japan’s population is ageing and shrinking.
The population of Japan peaked in 2008 at 128 million. With the fertility rate — or births per woman — falling below 1.5 at the beginning of the 1990s and falling as low as 1.29 in 2004, the population is shrinking rapidly. Already Japan has one million people fewer than in 2008. The government aims to keep the population above 100 million by 2060.
Perhaps an even bigger problem is that the proportion of elderly Japanese is increasing rapidly. One-third of the population is above 60 years old and 12.5 per cent are above 75. The working age population peaked in 1997 and by one measure is already 9.7 million people fewer than it was then. These facts are well established but the consequences are yet to be fully digested. They are profound.
Rapid and sustained immigration might delay the population decline and could eventually arrest it, but it is extremely unlikely that Japan will open up to high levels of immigration. Japan has a lot of work to do culturally and institutionally before it can welcome immigrants of any significant number.
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