Size and Japanese power
16 May 2016
Author: Editors, East Asia Forum
In 2008, the Japanese population peaked at 128 million. Already Japan has a million fewer people today than it did then. With the workforce shrinking even faster — almost 10 million lower than at its peak in 1997 — and the proportion of the population over 60 years old now at more than one-third of the total population, per capita income growth has stagnated. Japan’s economic size is on the way to maxing out. Relative to its faster growing neighbours, its share of regional GDP is declining, as too is its share of global income.
Japan remains one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It is also blessed by one of the highest levels of social security and community safety anywhere on earth. But it no longer projects economic size and 10 or 20 years hence that is not going to change.
These facts are the premise on which Japan must now make its way in the world. They are facts that creep up on you, if you’re living life out in the community. They’re reflected by the greying of crowds in the streets, the smaller cohorts entering schools and universities, and the expansion of the mortuary business. It’s no wonder that they take a while to imprint themselves on strategic outlooks formed in years of bustling youthful growth and a growing reach around the world.
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