If you have any wondered what a sharply decreasing population looks like in map form then you need look no further! I’ve found these maps on the rocketnews24 website which were taken in turn from the Nihon Keizai Shimbun website.  Among other things, the website displays a map which depicts the expected changes in the female (child bearing aged) population by 2040 by municipality (see above). As the rocketnews24 authors state:

“…it doesn’t bode well for the country. In fact, it’s causing some analysts to predict the ‘annihilation’ of 895 municipalities (a little over half of them) by 2040 due to depopulation.”

The map shows the population change in women ages 20 to 39 years old. These are the women expected to bear the majority of Japan’s future children, so fewer women means fewer babies. Which in turn means fewer women which in turn means fewer babies and so on and so forth.  The deeper red and purple colours in the map above show a drop of over 50% in the child bearing aged women in that particular municipality.

“The expected worst hit [municipality] is Kanra County in Gunma Prefecture who may see an 89.9% plunge in young adult women by 2040. From there, it would seem to be a hop, skip, and a jump to no people at all.”

As the authors at rocketnews24 argue, “annihilation” is perhaps too strong a term – most of the depopulated municipalities will simply amalgamate with others.  Further, they argue that Japan’s population density is 35-40th greatest in the world.  If its population was to be halved now it will still be about the 75th most densely populated nation in the world. Japan would still be more densely populated than China, France and the USA. They conclude that:

“…the transition will be a rocky one, but more than likely Japan will emerge with the potential to become a more comfortable place to live with fewer people. Best of all the population decrease won’t be the result of any tragedy like famine, disease, or war – simply a gradual change in society.”

I think that this underplays the difficulty that a shrinking, ageing population will cause Japanese society. In particular it ignores the enormous economic difficulties that a shrinking working age population will bring with it. Who will pay for the ageing population? It also ignores the geopolitical implications of a smaller, poorer, weaker Japan in North East Asia.  

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...