Saturday, May 26, 2012

Japan's population headed for extinction in 1,000 years

As reported by Kyoko Hasegawa of Agence France-Presse, May 11, 2012:

TOKYO - Japanese researchers on Friday unveiled a population clock that showed the nation's people could theoretically become extinct in 1,000 years because of declining birth rates.

Academics in the northern city of Sendai said that Japan's population of children aged up to 14, which now stands at 16.6 million, is shrinking at the rate of one every 100 seconds.

Their extrapolations pointed to a Japan with no children left within a millennium.

"If the rate of decline continues, we will be able to celebrate the Children's Day public holiday on May 5, 3011 as there will be one child," said Hiroshi Yoshida, an economics professor at Tohoku University.

"But 100 seconds later there will be no children left," he said. "The overall trend is towards extinction, which started in 1975 when Japan's fertility rate fell below two."

Yoshida said he created the population clock to encourage "urgent" discussion of the issue.

Another study released earlier this year showed Japan's population is expected to shrink to a third of its current 127.7 million over the next century.

Government projections show the birth rate will hit just 1.35 children per woman within 50 years, well below the replacement rate.

Meanwhile, life expectancy -- already one of the highest in the world -- is expected to rise from 86.39 years in 2010 to 90.93 years in 2060 for women and from 79.64 years to 84.19 years for men.

More than 20 percent of Japan's people are aged 65 or over, one of the highest proportions of elderly in the world.

Japan has very little immigration and any suggestion of opening the borders to young workers who could help plug the population gap provokes strong reactions among the public.

The greying population is a headache for policymakers who are faced with trying to ensure an ever-dwindling pool of workers can pay for a growing number of pensioners.

But for some Japanese companies the inverting of the traditional ageing pyramid provides commercial opportunities.

Unicharm said Friday that sales of its adult diapers had "slightly surpassed" those for babies in the financial year to March, for the first time since the company moved into the seniors market.

Unicharm started selling diapers for babies in 1981 and those for adults in 1987, said spokesman Kazuya Kondo, who declined to give specific figures on the sales.

Yoshida's population clock can be seen at: http://mega.econ.tohoku.ac.jp/Children/
The other study mentioned in the article was reported by Agence France-Presse on January 29, 2012:

TOKYO — Japan's population is expected to shrink to a third of its current size over the next century, with the average woman living to over 90 within 50 years, a government report said Monday.

The population is forecast to decline from the current 127.7 million to 86.7 million by 2060 and to tumble again to 42.9 million by 2110 "if conditions remain unchanged", the health and welfare ministry said in the report.

The projections by the ministry's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research forecast that Japanese women would on average have just 1.35 babies, well below the replacement rate, within 50 years.

The report said that last year's earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan, which left more than 19,000 people dead or missing, hit average life expectancy but that the figure was expected to continue its upward trend.

Japan's life expectancy -- one of the highest in the world -- is expected to rise from 86.39 years in 2010 to 90.93 years in 2060 for women and from 79.64 years to 84.19 years for men.

In September the government announced that the number of people aged 100 or older hit a record high for the 41st consecutive year.

The health ministry said 37 out of every 100,000 people in the country are now centenarians -- a total of more than 47,700, with 87 percent of them women. The figure was more than 3,300 higher than in 2010.

More than 20 percent of Japan's population are aged 65 or over, one of the highest proportions in the world.

Japan's population has been declining as many young people have put off starting families, seeing it as a burden on their lifestyles and careers. A slow economy has also discouraged young people from having babies.

Analysts say having a smaller population is not in itself a problem, as demonstrated by the economic and diplomatic successes of many European nations with far fewer people than Japan.

But an ageing population causes all manner of difficulties, most notably for Japan's government finances, already hard pressed by two decades of economic stagnation.

More retirees inevitably means more spending on social security when Japan's public debt, at twice GDP, is already one of the industrialised world's worst.

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