Japan population drops for third year straight; 25% are elderly


Japan’s population has shrunk for the third year running, with the elderly making up a quarter of the total for the first time, government data showed Tuesday.

The number of people in the world’s third-largest economy dropped by 0.17 percent or 217,000 people, to 127,298,000 as of last Oct. 1, the data said. This figure includes long-staying foreigners.

The number of people aged 65 or over rose by 1.1 million to 31.9 million, accounting for 25.1 percent of the population, it said.

With its low birthrate and long life expectancy, Japan is rapidly graying and already has one of the world’s highest proportions of elderly people.

The aging population is a headache for policymakers who are faced with trying to ensure an ever-dwindling pool of workers can pay for the growing number of pensioners.

The country has very little immigration. Any suggestion of opening its borders to young workers who could help plug the population gap provokes strong reactions among the public.

The proportion of people aged 65 or over is forecast to reach nearly 40 percent of the population in 2060, the government has warned.

Meanwhile, the country’s main working population aged 15 to 64 fell below 80 million as of Oct. 1, for the first time in 32 years due to the country’s rapidly aging society, according to the government data.

Of the total, the workforce stood at 79,010,000, down 1,165,000.

The decline in the major workforce is due to the growing number of people in Japan’s baby-boom generation who have turned 65.

Analysts said the latest estimate have sparked concerns that current wage-earners will have to shoulder additional burdens in paying for the swelling social security costs for the graying population.

A reduced workforce is also feared to weaken the economy, they said.

The number of people aged 65 and older came to 31,898,000, an increase of 1,105,000, accounting for 25.1 percent of the total population, according to the estimate.

The proportion of people aged 14 or younger dropped to a record low of 12.9 percent.

The number of deaths over the one-year period from October 2012 exceeded the number of births, seeing the total population of Japanese fall by 0.2 percent to 125,704,000.

The number of foreign nationals saw the first increase in five years, as more foreigners entered the country than left it.

  • The reduced workforce will be busy enough paying back the gargantuan government debts undertaken by the previous generation, let alone supporting that generation while they’re still around.

  • Crewjobs

    The low birthrate is due in part to the Japanese male under 30 becoming effeminate as a culture, i.e. Flower Boys. Subtract the percentage of them who are actual homosexuals, and you are still left with a large population of effeminate men who do not interest Japanese women and apparently are not too interested in women either. They do not act virile and the birthrate bears this out.

  • HenryC

    This will continue for some time, The momentum is significant. It is an almost world wide phenomina, Japan is just ahead of the curve.

  • JamesJ

    Soylent Green is Sushi!

  • FrankW

    In 2012, more adult diapers were sold in Japan than baby diapers. It’s no wonder Japan’s economy, once only second to the US, has spent the last two plus decades in the tank.

  • WalterByrd123

    Those Japanese better start importing young people pretty soon….that nation is almost moribund…amazing.
    Why did they stop having babies?
    Actually, its too late to change the fact that Japan is over, finished, done. Like the Commanche’s in Texas….once there were lots of Commanche’s now, you can’t find a Commanche if you looked hard for six years. They are gone. Disappeared, vanished….no babies.

  • TheFreeMarketeer

    Easy solution: make it cheaper to start a family (i.e. lower taxes) and make it more expensive to not have one (i.e. cut back on social benefits). The short fall between revenue (tax cuts) can be made up by ceasing to build bridges to nowhere (and all that other keynesian rubbish) and cutting back on social benefits. You will get a faster growing economy and a faster growing population. Good luck.

    • Reev Jax

      I live in Japan, as it stands health care for children is 100% free until they are 20. Starting a family is not a money issue.

      • Bosozoku

        This depends a lot on location. My kids are only free to age 7. The neighboring city only pays to age 3 or 4. And yes I live in japan.

      • mcgdesign

        Since you live in Japan, is the lack of interest in children coming from the young women or men , or both?

  • J. C. Smith

    Japan’s population has peaked and the country is now in decline. The same is true for most of Western Europe.

  • Patick

    Does the effects of Fukushima have anything to do with this?

  • YeahNope

    Western countries are having the same problem, Japan is just a bit further along the road to collapse. The commonality between then is that cultural standard that men should work their entire lives, supporting everyone around them while an ever growing entitlement class demands more and more.

    In Japan (and western countries) the blame is placed on porn, video games, anime, etc., and the failure of men to “Man Up” and do their duty. Yet rarely is there a speculation of the cost/benefit analysis in regards to “Maning Up”.

    Quite simply, pushing yourself for a good education, a good job, getting married, and raising kids, no longer provide the social and financial benefits that they once did, in fact they have become huge impediments to financial security and personal fulfillment. One of the fastest ways to poverty for men these days is marriage and children.

  • WBC

    Japan is committing demographic suicide and the same is true in Western Europe, which only maintains population growth through Muslim immigration. This is what happens when people become so self-absorbed that they cease producing a next generation. Twenty-five years ago people were writing books about how Japan was about to conquer the world and now it is questionable that there will be enough of them even to occupy Japan a century from now.

    • Kaya Hund

      Read “The Cube and the Cathedral” by George Weigel — explains why Europe is dying, demographically. Main answer: “Europe’s embrace of a narrow and cramped secularism.” The United States well on its way there as well.

      • WBC

        I’ve read it (he’s one of my favorite Catholic writers). It’s not one of Weigel’s best, but he’s absolutely right about the demoralization of Europe. And you are quite correct that it is happening here as well.

  • Betty Rubble

    Japanese elderly are extremely healthy. Most of them can probably work at desk jobs.

    • disqus_Gvs3G32z1K

      That’s another problem. Many of them don’t retire and reduce the number of jobs available to young people.

  • Demosthenes

    Sorry Japan. It looks like your days of (mostly) monoculture are coming to an end.

  • TruthDetector

    Japan is doomed.

    Their replacement rate is a greater threat than Godzilla to Japanese existence.

  • AStoner

    Good luck sucking the life out of your children Japan. As your older people drain the resources of the young, the first casualties are babies that are never born. The last casualties will be the old that they decide they cannot care for.

  • Shiori_Uyoku

    Marriage and family must be protected for the health of every society. If the Japanese gov’t put more restrictions on the huge sex industry, you’d likely see more men seeking real relationships with real women, not dolls and sex workers. Another problem in Japanese culture is the loneliness and tedium of life as a housewife and the misery of single motherhood. Something’s got to give. A new approach is needed. A national campaign promoting marriage and family may be a good start. Removing the cultural and communication wedges between the sexes is also crucial if Japan is to remain an economic power. After that, the rigid education system should be examined; are young people too inundated? On the bright side, the population of Japanese-Americans is steadily growing.

    • YeahNope

      If the benefits of “real women” outweighed their risks or in any way provided more than dolls and sex workers I doubt Japan (and most western countries) would be having issues.

      Men being more interested in dolls, sex workers, video games, anime, ect., is a symtom, not the cause.

      The answer is not to force men into relationships through removal of choice, but rather to make relationships the more rewarding choice.

  • inthisdimension

    And if you dig deeper, their kids don’t even like to have sex. Japan’s fertility rate is the lowest of industrialized nations. Their population halves about every 1.5 generations. They are over – no nation has ever recovered from the fertility Japan has experienced over the last three generations. China doesn’t need to invade or attack them; they just need to wait about 20 years when there are no young workers paying into the govt pension plans, and the entire nation begins starving to death – or leaving.

  • JV

    All I can say is “aiya”

  • Watiu

    The USA in within 30 years.

  • Tim Johnson

    China’s low birthrate is not cultural, it’s legal. They can change that when they need to with a stroke of the pen.

  • BobQSoss

    I notice this seems to happen voluntarily among the more advanced societies. Is it remotely possible that controlling population by means other than the traditional ones of war, starvation. and plague isn’t totally bad?
    Note that this is not happening in places like Mexico City and current Los Angeles.

  • Jimbo

    The planet has a finite amount of resources. Despite humanity’s “intelligence” it continues to breed and overpopulate. The real source of today’s economic woes is overpopulation. The economy is fine. There are just too many people. If one third of the population died out the survivors would enjoy a much higher standard of living. It happened before. Before the Black Death in Europe peasants and their labor were not worth much. Most of what they produced through hard toil went to the lords. Any dissention or appeal for justice was brutally suppressed. After the Black Death there were few peasants to go around. The lords couldn’t hack their heads off for disobedience of they’d have to plant crops themselves. There is nothing as terrifying to the one percent as the idea of doing physical work for a living. The peasants were able to bargain for better working conditions, a greater share of the fruits of their labor, etc. The world needs less people. Not more.

    • Liberos

      I don’t think the world is overpopulated at all. We’re too centralized. We have too much density, and too much centralization of management and services.

    • Liberos

      Not too many people, too much centralization.

  • Sandy Petitto

    Uh, common sense here……wasn’t it two – three years ago the Fukushima toxic coverup??? Just sayin’…. now their population is dwendling?

    • disqus_ZE3VhQZ7M6

      No that is not common sense. That is knee jerk conspiracy thinking. Long before Fukushima, the Japanese have been aware of a growing demographic crisis. Show me numbers of actual deaths due to Fukushima, or claim it is all a conspiracy and NOTHING will convince you otherwise.

  • ytuque

    It wrote in a suggestion to the Japanese government that Barry White music be played at every subway station to solve the demographic crisis, but I never received a reply.

  • Petevonwolfhausen

    Video games and porn had more to do with it that birth control. At least in Japan.

  • aki009

    If Japan wants to solve its workforce problem, it needs to open up to foreigners and stop treating them like third class citizens (even if some of them possibly deserve it). And it should do so soon.

  • 5466ron

    Maybe they could use about 40 million illegal aliens.

  • disqus_ZE3VhQZ7M6

    Japan will be fine in the long run. Technology is advancing fast enough that the problem will soon end up being not “where will we get more workers” but “what will we do with all these extra workers that have been replaced by automation?”

  • RT Colorado

    Just one aspect of Japan’s population problem is the military. The average age of Japan’s Self Defense Force is nearing 40…that may not sound too disturbing if we were talking about office workers, but the nature of combat duty makes 40 years equal to 80 in office years. China only needs to wait out the Japanese and then do whatever it wants.

  • disqus_Gvs3G32z1K

    If the population wasn’t aging at the same time it wouldn’t be a problem. But as this article explains, there is a growing number of elderly and less and less young people who can work to pay their pensions. It’s a course that will lead to extinction if drastic measures are not taken.

  • disqus_Gvs3G32z1K

    I remember reading somewhere that that was a minimal contribution to the population declining.

  • mhundred

    You’ve missed the articles main point here. Japan is not losing it’s population because Japanese are suddenly moving out. They are losing their population to old age and few births. By the middle of the century near 50% of the population will be 65 and over, a country cannot survive if you have half the population or less literally supporting the other half who don’t work due to being pensioners.

  • disqus_78r6IPfptX

    The line that really jumped out at me from this story is “Any suggestion of opening its borders to young workers who could help plug the population gap provokes strong reactions among the public.” Oh, really? It sounds like a dubious assertion to me, on a par with all the other dubious canards spewed out by the government to justify itself.

    It is easy to become confused and to distrust analyses of Japan’s aging and shrinking population. First of all, it’s neither news nor unexpected. Second, it is easy to forecast diametrically opposite outcomes of the situation: long-term burdens modified by short-term gains. The question is, which will prevail, the gains or the burdens?

    I am always thinking about revenue stream. The aging population means more elderly expenditure, and the population decline affected by the low birth rate outpaced by the elderly death rate means a drying up revenue stream. Every day there are fewer and fewer people to pay monies to the government to satisfy the government’s obligations and ambitions. I think that speaks against courting big projects like World Cups and Olympic Games.

    Isn’t there a short-term financial windfall? While income tax, pension and health insurance revenue are decreasing with shrinking numbers, the release of the deceased elderly’s lifetime savings and other assets coupled with the collection of death/inheritance taxes means a significant simultaneous infusion of revenue into the economy and government accounting books. While the aging population is currently driving up medical, long-term care, social pension and welfare costs those higher expenditures will not be perpetual. We will be over the Baby Boomer hump one day. We will reach the end of the arc of rising financial burdens and shrining workforce and the population will eventually stabilize at a lower level. Then everything will be fine. No? In the meantime, Japan will muddle
    through with longsuffering perseverance the way it always does. It’s a
    muddling country.

  • TSJones97

    Some GREAT points. Much of what you said is true for many people. I, on the other hand, know good and enlightened Japanese Male friends who cannot find a mate willing to settle down and have kids. You’re right about the old ways messing up the minds of the new generation, but they’re also meandering and becoming ridiculously out of touch and materialistic with no sense of duty to help their race survive. Porn doesn’t create kids. Your point does wander a bit off the trail there. IN fact porn weakens the bonds between men and women that keep them together for the sake of family and children. I’m just talking from experience. My enlightened Japanese males friends are running into walls all over the place, put up by women who, frankly don’t want to be Japanese. These women seek husbands who are white or black.

    But your points are VERY interesting and well considered.