The number of Japanese 65 or older stands at 21.9 million, accounting for 17.3 percent of the population, or one in 5.8 people, the Management and Coordination Agency said in a report Thursday.

The estimate, which marks record highs in both number and proportion, was released to coincide with today’s Respect for the Aged Day, a national holiday.

The previous highs were 21.16 million, or 16.7 percent of the population, registered last year.

Japan has one of the world’s highest proportions of elderly, following Sweden and Italy at 17.4 percent each. The figure for Japan has risen by more than 0.5 percentage point every year for the past five years, illustrating the rapid graying of society, the agency said.

Breaking down the figure, 14.81 million are over 70, 8.93 million are over 75, 4.83 million are over 80, with 2.23 million over 85.

Of those over 65, 9.13 million are men and 12.77 million are women, and among those over 85, there are about 2.5 times more women than men, the agency said.

The average savings in households with working people over 65 was 26.68 million yen, against 24.49 million yen for those with people in this age bracket who do not have jobs, and 15.05 million yen for households with people under 65.

In 1999, 4.93 million, or about 25 percent, of those over 65 were working or intended to work. The comparable ratio was 12.3 percent for the United States, 6.5 percent for Canada, and 3.9 percent for Italy, the survey showed.

Another government body, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, estimates that the number of people over 65 will continue to rise and eventually reach 33.12 million, 1.5 times the current figure, by 2025.

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