Japan census report shows surge in elderly population, many living alone

by

Staff Writer

The number of elderly people in Japan has increased, while the average family has shrunk in size, census data released Wednesday reveal.

The number of elderly people aged 65 or older accounts for 26.7 percent of the 127.11 million total population, up 3.7 percentage points from five years ago, a summary report of the 2015 national census shows.

Meanwhile, the size of the average family has continued to shrink, according to the figures.

The 68-page report, conducted by the internal affairs ministry, also showed that the average number of household members fell from 2.82 in 1995 to 2.39 in 2015.

Accordingly, single-person households have grown to occupy 32.5 percent of the total 51.88 million households, making it now the largest segment of the population, the report showed.

As of Oct. 1, 2015, 1 in every 8 men aged 65 or older and 1 in every 5 women of the same age category live alone, the survey found.

Meanwhile, about 1.69 million people live in welfare facilities for the elderly, representing a 40 percent surge from the previous census in 2012, the report said.

The national census is conducted every five years, covering both Japanese nationals and non-Japanese citizens living in the country.

In its summary report, the internal affairs ministry used 1 percent of the census samples to estimate various demographic figures.

“The ratio of people aged 65 or older is the highest ever recorded,” a ministry official told reporters. “This is because many baby boomers have entered this age category over the past five years.”

The country’s baby boomer generation, known in Japanese as dankai no sedai, usually refers to those born several years after the end of World War II.

By prefecture, Akita Prefecture had the highest ratio of elderly people of 65 or older at 33.5 percent. It was followed by Kochi Prefecture with 32.9 percent and Shimane Prefecture at 32.6 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum was Okinawa Prefecture, which had a ratio of just 19.7 percent. It was followed by Tokyo with 22.9 percent, and Ehime at 23.8 percent, according to the report.

The census study also surveyed the country’s labor population, finding that about 59.8 percent of people aged 15 or older have jobs, down 1.4 percentage points from five years ago.

By sex, 70.8 percent of men aged 15 or older were working, down 3 percentage points, while 49.8 percent of women held jobs, up 0.2 percentage points.

The survey also found that 80.9 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 29 held jobs, exceeding the 80 percent threshold for the first time since comparable data became available in 1950.

By industry, 16.5 percent of the labor population work in the wholesale and retail business, while 15.7 percent worked in the manufacturing industry and 12.2 percent in medical and welfare services.

Workers in the medical and welfare industry, in particular, have seen a spike in recent years, jumping 2 percentage points from the 2012 census, the report said.

The study also determined that 31.6 percent of men aged 15 or older have never wed as of October 2015. This compared with 61.3 percent who have a married partner and 3.9 percent who have divorced and now have no partner.

Among women, 22.9 percent have never wed, 56.6 percent are currently married and 6.1 percent are divorced.