Japan's latest census confirms population decline
According to Japan's latest census, the country's population has declined by 947,0000 (0.7%) in the last five years, confirming fears of a shrinking population in the world's tenth most populous nation. This is the first time population decline has been recorded in Japan since official census records began in 1920. Demographers had long predicted the population decline, citing falling birth rates and dropping immigration.
Japan's population began falling in 2004 and is now aging faster than in any other country. The government forecasted that the population would fall from 127 million in 2012 to 87 million by 2060. At the present rate of the population decline, by 2045, economic value would need to increase by 13% per person in order to maintain the current living standards.
The fertility in rate in Japan is 1.41 births per woman, one of the lowest in the world.
Japan's stagnant economy and the rising costs of living have led to plummeting marriage rates and consequently fewer childbirths, in a culture that frowns upon out-of-wedlock births. Japanse women are increasingly opting for careers instead of traditional homemaker roles that marriage would bind them to. Japanese cultural norms do not traditionally support immigrants either.
A drop in Japan's working population would lower potential growth and shrink the country's GDP, with the country running into labour and human resource shortages. Already, Japan has run into heavy debt and a stagnant economy since 20 years due to investments dropping over fears of population decline. Skewered demographics are also expected to strain the pension and social welfare systems.
Japanese PM Shinto Abe appointed a cabinet minister, Katsunobu Kato, to find ways to keep the population from falling below 100 million and raising the fertility rate from 1.4 to 2.1. Abe introduced measures to encourage child births, including financial support for fertility treatments, guaranteed child care and free pre-school education He ruled out immigration, often suggested by economists for checking Japan's population decline.
According to the census, 39 prefectures saw population declines. Out of the 9 urban centres home to 53.9% of the population, 8 prefectures registered population growths, including Tokyo-Greater Tokyo alone attracted 326870 more people over a 5-year period. Rural areas have been worst hit by the population decline, with the entire Tohuku region, including nuclear disaster site Fukushima, seeing a population decline of 5%.