Japan’s economy is stagnant; its politics seem broken. Is its demographic decline the missing link? Recent comments in the New York Times by Masaru Tamamoto, a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, suggest that they are:
Signs of despair are everywhere. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates among rich countries. There may be as many as one million “hikikomori,” from teenagers to those in their 40s, who shut themselves in their rooms for years on end. Then there are all those “parasite singles” — or unmarried adults living with their parents. But by far our most serious problem is a declining and aging population. Given present trends, total population will likely decline from around 130 million to under 90 million in 50 years or so. By that same time, 40 percent of Japanese could be over 65.
If we want to survive as a nation, we must shed our deeply rooted resistance to immigration. Contrary to widespread prejudices in favor of keeping Japan “pure,” we desperately need to dilute our blood. Our aging nation will need millions of university-educated middle-class immigrants with high productivity, people who will put down roots and raise families, whose pride and success will be the affirmation of new Japanese values.
Mr Yamamoto’s main theme is not demography, but that Japanese society is highly risk averse. But what is riskier than daring to bring a new generation into the world? The real mystery how to fill the Japanese with hope for the future.