• Kyodo

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Local authorities are alarmed by a projection that a drop in young women in provincial areas over the next 30 years may result in major population declines in towns and cities across Japan.

The experts who produced the estimate, which was released Thursday, recommended measures to fight the population decline, but after trying various initiatives, local governments appear to lack further ideas.

Based on data from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, the Japan Policy Council estimated that in 2040, 896 municipalities, or 49.8 percent of overall municipalities, will see their populations of women in their 20s and 30s decline by more than half from levels in 2010.

The demographic prediction was made by a panel of experts in the think tank who warn that local communities will likely break down and that smaller municipalities may find it difficult to operate because of ongoing population decline prompted in part by a drop in age groups that are actively reproducing.

The study projected the population of Muroto, Kochi Prefecture, will fall to about 5,000 in 2040, a third of the city’s current population, and the number of women in their 20s and 30s will drop to 156, down 83.4 percent.

Behind the anticipated sharp drop is an outflow of young people to cities as a result of the decline of the fishing industry, the key industry in the coastal city.

“We have been working to secure jobs and enhance childcare, but there is no decisive measure. (The city) may just disappear if left as it is,” a city official said.

The city of Omuta, in Fukuoka Prefecture, saw its population decline from about 200,000 to 120,000 following the closure of a coal mine. The city had a policy of trying to increase its population but is now focused on slowing the pace of decline.

The city government has been encouraging people to move in from other parts of the country but has achieved only limited results.

“I hear that relocation (to the countryside) is popular across the country, but we have more people dying (than newcomers),” a municipal government official said.

The city of Akita has a sizable population of 320,000 but a drastic fall was projected by the study, even though it is a prefectural capital. “There is no vitality in the area and there are no jobs,” said a 22-year-old man looking for work. “I hope some measures are taken soon.”

Akita Prefecture has been working with the private sector to hold events such as match-making parties, but a prefectural official said it “could not stop the population decline.”

Alarmed by the declining population, the prefectural government Wednesday set up a task force on population problems chaired by Gov. Norihisa Satake and began studying measures to halt the decline jointly with a project team comprising veteran officials.

While female populations are anticipated to fall in the majority of municipalities, a few localities were even able to project an increase.

The population of Hiezu, a village adjacent to Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, is expected to rise to 3,657 in 2040 from the current 3,300, with the number of young women also forecast to grow 6.8 percent to 450.

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