News / Asia

    Japan Census: Population Fell Nearly 1 Million in 2010-15

    FILE - Female office workers head to their workplace during morning rush hour in Tokyo. Without a substantial increase in the birthrate or loosening of staunch Japanese resistance to immigration, the population is forecast to fall to about 108 million by 2050 and to 87 million by 2060.
    FILE - Female office workers head to their workplace during morning rush hour in Tokyo. Without a substantial increase in the birthrate or loosening of staunch Japanese resistance to immigration, the population is forecast to fall to about 108 million by 2050 and to 87 million by 2060.
    Associated Press

    Japan's latest census confirmed the hard reality long ago signaled by shuttered shops and abandoned villages across the country: the population is shrinking.

    Japan's population stood at 127.1 million last fall, down 0.7 percent from 128.1 million in 2010, according to results of the 2015 census, released Friday. The 947,000 decline in the population in the last five years was the first since the once-every-five-years count started in 1920.

    Unable to count on a growing market and labor force to power economic expansion, the government has drawn up urgent measures to counter the falling birth rate.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made preventing a decline below 100 million a top priority. But population experts say it would be virtually impossible to prevent that even if the birth rate rose to Abe's target of 1.8 children per woman from the current birthrate of 1.4.

    Without a substantial increase in the birthrate or loosening of staunch Japanese resistance to immigration, the population is forecast to fall to about 108 million by 2050 and to 87 million by 2060.

    Tokyo's rush hour trains are just as crowded as ever: Japan's biggest cities have continued to grow as younger workers leave small towns in search of work. The census showed Tokyo's population grew to 13.5 million, up 2.7 percent since the 2010 census.

    But a visit to any regional city will find entire blocks of small shops shuttered, the owners usually either retired or deceased. In rural areas, even just outside Tokyo, villages are mostly empty, fields overgrown and bus and train services intermittent thanks to scant demand.

    The rate of population growth peaked in 1950 and has fallen continuously since 1975. By 2011 it had hit zero, the census figures show.

    Though Japan is leading this demographic shift, the rest of Asia is following. In South Korea, China and elsewhere in Asia, improved life spans and falling birthrates are raising worries over how to provide for the rapidly expanding ranks of seniors with shrinking labor forces.

    A World Bank report issued late last year forecast that health and pension spending will rise sharply at a time when elders can count on less support from their families.

    “The rapid pace and sheer scale of aging in East Asia raises policy challenges, economic and fiscal pressures and social risks,” the report said.

    It recommended that governments facilitate more participation in the labor force by women and seniors, provide better childcare and elder-care, and revamp their pension and health systems to cope.

    For Japan, the demographic crunch is one of the biggest challenges to a postwar economic model based on rising incomes and consumption.

    Nearly a third of all Japanese were over 65 years old in 2015. By 2050, almost 40 percent will be older than 65, according to projections by the National Institute of Population and Social Securities Research.

    Richard Katz of The Oriental Economist forecasts that by 2045 there will be 13 percent fewer workers per person in Japan. That means each worker would need to produce 13 percent more in terms of economic value to offset the decline and maintain current living standards.

    Japan's economy has stagnated for most of the past two decades partly because companies are reluctant to invest in a market they are convinced will continue to shrink.

    Abe took office in late 2012 vowing to spur growth through massive stimulus and sweeping reforms to improve Japan's competitiveness. So far few of the reforms have been realized, though corporate profits soared thanks to the resulting weakening in the Japanese yen against other currencies.

    Meanwhile, Abe's growth agenda has stalled, as companies have opted to invest their cash piles overseas, in faster growing markets, instead of upgrading factories and raising wages - moves that might stimulate demand inside Japan. 

    You May Like

    Multimedia US Observes Memorial Day With Wreath-laying, National Concert

    Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora