POPULATION DECLINE AND AGEING IN JAPAN: THE SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES by Florian Coulmas. Routledge: London, 2007, 167 pp., $150 (cloth)

Florian Coulmas, a longtime contributor to the Japan Times and director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo, packs a lot of information and insights into this slim and pricey volume. He describes Japan's post-WWI population dynamics and the relentless march toward a "hyper-aged society." He argues that social aging stems from urbanization, industrialization and modernization, and that it augurs tectonic social consequences.

Demographic pressures are forcing the government to, "face challenges concerning intergenerational fairness and social cohesion, a shrinking labor force and economic growth, pension funds and public fiscal sustainability, and a new relationship between the state and non-state organizations and their involvement in education, care-giving and other social services. "Japanese, with good reason, are worried about how to maintain their standard of living in a hyper-aged society while also striking a balance on social security that does not overly burden the young, stifle the economy or incur too much hardship on the elderly."

Coulmas stresses that Japan is not just getting older, but rather that an aging population is causing fundamental social transformations. Nowhere is this more evident than in intergenerational relations. Coulmas writes, "As the economic rationality of intergenerational co-residence becomes less compelling, a shift in emphasis from vertical inter-generational to horizontal intra-generational relations becomes apparent, the conjugal family making inroads at the expense of the traditional stem family."