Nicholas Eberstadt has an astounding article at The Wilson Quarterly about Japan’s demographic “greying”, based on updated U.S. Census Bureau projections for that country. Basically there are now fewer births than deaths in Japan, and it has been that way every year since 2006.
That means Japan’s population is going to rapidly shrink and age at the same time. Japanese people have almost the longest life-expectancy in the world, and are almost at the bottom of the world in their fertility rate: just 1.37 births per woman in 2009. That is well below replacement level.
Here are some of the key points:
- Japan has 127 million people today. By 2040, it will be 106 million, a decline of 20 per cent.
- By 2040, the working age population will shrink from 81 million to 57 million, a decline of 30 per cent.
- In 2008, barely 40 per cent as many Japanese babies were born as in 1948.
- If current trends persist, Japan will have as many births in 2050 as they did in 1870. But the median age will be much higher.
- Japan is already the “greyest” society, median age 45. In 2040, the median age in Japan will be 55. By comparison, median age in Palm Springs, California–a retirement destination–is 52.
- 75 per cent of the people who will populate Japan in 2040 are already alive.
- On the current projections, by 2040, there will be almost as many Japanese people over 100 years old as there are newborns.
- Current estimates from Alzheimer’s Disease International, suggest that by 2050, fully five per cent of Japanese people will live with dementia or Alzheimers. One in 20.
And it is very difficult to see how or why Japan would turn these numbers around in a more positive direction.
According to Eberstandt’s article, marriage is collapsing in Japan:
Though the number of men and women between the ages of 20 and 50 was roughly the same in 2010 and 1970, about 10 million fewer were married in 2010. Nowadays, the odds of being married are barely even within this key demographic group. And marriage is the only real path to parenthood. Unwed motherhood remains, so to speak, inconceivable because of the enduring disgrace conferred by out-of-wedlock births. In effect, the Japanese have embraced voluntary mass childlessness.
The economic outlooks for depopulation may also be grim. According to Eberstadt:
Ballooning debt obligations will compound the demographic pressures on economic performance. Thanks in part to its approach to financing programs for the aged, Japan already has the highest ratio of gross public debt to gross domestic product (well over 200 per cent) of the developed nations.
With a working age population falling much faster than the population at large, the public sector will have to take larger and larger shares of their income to support the Japan’s aged population. That means fewer resources for forming and building families. Subsequently, all of the above trends may actually accelerate and worsen.
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