In September of last year Shannon wrote a blogpost about the then-upcoming Japanese census. She predicted that this would be the first census (they have been held every five years in Japan since 1920) that would show a population decline. As with most things, my wife was correct about this. The Diplomat reports that the 2015 Japanese Census has found that Japan’s population contracted by 947,000 people since 2010 to 127.1 million. This represents a population decline of 0.7% and continues the trend since the 1980s of a falling population growth rate. Just eight of Japan’s 47 prefectures saw their population’s grow while Fukushima saw its population decline by more than 100,000 people (for obvious earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor-meltdown reasons…) Tokyo on the other hand saw its population increase.
By its own estimate the government predicts that the country will decline to 87 million if current trends continue unabated. But what is to be done? Fertility rates are at 1.4 children per woman (far below the replacement rate of 2.1) while the number of immigrants to the country is extremely low and allowing for more immigration is politically unpopular.
And the economic ramifications of this demographic decline are being felt:
“Despite Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempts at using fiscal, monetary, and structural levers to jump start Japan’s economy after over two decades of sluggishness, the country’s labor force may already be nearly capped, leaving little room for growth.”
Nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of being hanged. Perhaps the demographic noose tightening around Japan’s society, culture and economy will focus its peoples’ minds. After all, it has been predicted for many years, having the demographic decline spelt out for the first time in a census tells you that the crisis is now here. Perhaps though, nothing will change and Japan will slowly continue to sink into a smaller, older version of its current self and every five years from now on we will read in another drop in the official Japanese population.