Japan’s new government, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, seems to be taking its population problem seriously. The world’s number two economy is set to shrink from about 127 million to 95 million by 2050. This means that the number of workers available to support retirees will fall from 3 to 1.5. Unfortunately, because Japanese are notoriously hostile towards increased immigration, the government’s options are limited. It is racking its brains for schemes to increase the birth rate. Here are some mentioned in an article by AFP:
- The new Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has appointed Mizuho Fukushima, leader of a junior coalition partner, as his State Minister for the Declining Birthrate and Gender Equality
- robots to care for the elderly
- increasing the number of daycare centres and boosting financial aid for women on maternity leave.
- Encouraging women to work throughout their actives lives. Most women leave the workforce when they marry or become mothers.
- Cash for families – 26,000 yen (US$290) per month for every child until middle school, the abolition of high school enrolment fees, and new benefits for single-parent families.
- Reducing the stigma of out-of-wedlock births. Only 3% of Japanese babies are born to unmarried mothers, compared to 40% in the US and 50% in Sweden and France. Under Japanese law, illegitimate children have rights to only half of the parental inheritance of their “legitimate” siblings. The minister for declining birthrate is working to change that.