Japan’s population as of last October fell for the fourth consecutive year and saw people 65 or older accounting for a record 26 percent of the total, government data showed Friday.
A survey by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry showed the population fell by 215,000, or 0.17 percent, from a year earlier to 127,083,000 as of Oct. 1, a decline of about 1 million from its peak in 2008.
The pace of the decline fits the outlook of the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, which predicts the population will drop to as low as 86.74 million in 2060, making Japan the global leader in aging.
But the government intends to take a stand at 100 million that year, because a fall below that will affect Japan’s future economic growth.
“With more people choosing life without marriage and children, the way of living has become more diverse and immigrants are few in Japan,” an institute official said. “So, it would be difficult to change the situation rapidly.”
In the latest proof of Japan’s rapid graying, the survey showed that the population of those 65 or older had risen by 1,102,000 to around 33 million — more than doubling those aged 14 or younger for the first time.
Seniors now account for 26 percent of the population, the highest since comparable data became available in 1950. One-eighth of the total is 75 or older.
Overall, the population fell in 40 of the 47 prefectures. Tokyo posted the sharpest gain, 0.68 percent, outpacing Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Aichi, Fukuoka and Okinawa, which also grew.
The population of Tokyo and its neighbors Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa made up 28.3 percent of the nation’s population, underscoring the glut of people living in and around the capital.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is aiming to thin out the population in the Tokyo region by revitalizing the economies in rural regions of the country.
The survey was compiled by calculating the number of births and deaths as well as people leaving and entering the country, based on the government’s quinquennial census. The figures include foreign nationals who reside in Japan for more than three months.
The number of Japanese nationals meanwhile declined to 125,431,000, down 273,000, the survey said.