National

Elderly citizens accounted for record 28.4% of Japan's population in 2018, data show

Kyodo

Seniors accounted for 28.4 percent of Japan’s population and 12.9 percent of its labor force in 2018, both record highs, government data showed Sunday.

The number of citizens aged 65 or older in the country, which has the world’s oldest population, stood at 35.88 million, up 320,000 from a year earlier, according to data released by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry prior to Monday’s Respect for the Aged Day holiday.

The ratio of seniors remained well above 23 percent in Italy, the second most aged society, and 22.4 percent in Portugal which came third.

The number of Japanese aged 90 or older reached 2.31 million, including over 71,000 centenarians.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research projects that Japan’s elderly will make up 30.0 percent of the population in 2025 and 35.3 percent in 2040.

The ratio of seniors with jobs increased for the 15th consecutive year as the country faced a deepening labor shortage. Of the 8.62 million seniors with jobs, 3.50 million were women.

The biggest employer of seniors was the wholesale and retail industry, with 1.27 million elderly workers, followed by agriculture and forestry with 1.07 million.

The nation has to depend increasingly on the elderly as a workforce.

The government has already introduced a series of steps to make up for the labor shortfall, such as accepting more foreign workers and promoting women’s participation in the labor market.

Still, Japan is expected to face a shortage of 6.44 million workers in 2030, according to an estimate by Persol Research and Consulting, and Chuo University.

Ensuring an adequate workforce is also important to secure funds to meet the rising social security costs of an aging society.

The government said in May that it plans to urge companies to hire employees until they turn 70 as part of measures to address a severe labor shortage amid Japan’s rapidly graying population.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also plans to call on companies to provide support for retired employees to find new jobs, launch their own companies or work freelance.

The government plans to submit a bill to the Diet next year to revise related laws, but there will be no penalties at this stage even if companies fail to comply.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry data released Friday showed that the number of people aged 100 or older in Japan has exceeded 70,000 for the first time, a roughly 23-fold increase from a centenarian population in 1989.

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