National

Japan's working ranks are still thinning, despite accelerating growth in foreign population

Kyodo

Japan’s working-age population shrank further last year, bringing its ratio to the overall population to a record low as the growth of the foreign population accelerated, government data showed Friday.

The annual data release by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry reflects the nation’s deepening labor crunch, which prompted the government to introduce a new visa system this month to bring in more foreign labor mainly for blue-collar jobs.

The overall population as of last October declined by 263,000 to 126.44 million, falling for the eighth straight year. The working-age population of those 15 to 64 shrank 512,000 to 75.45 million, or 59.7 percent of the total, tying the low recorded in 1950, when comparable data became available.

The number of foreign people increased 167,000 to 2.23 million, growing for the sixth straight year.

A different survey by the Justice Ministry showed earlier in the month that the number of foreign residents in Japan has grown due largely to the rise in students and technical trainees.

Japan, which has a very stringent immigration policy, now expects to accept up to 345,000 foreign laborers under the new visa program.

The data reflect Japan’s rapidly graying population. People 70 or above accounted for 20.7 percent of the population, surpassing 20 percent for the first time.

Among countries with a population of more than 40 million, the ratio of people 65 or older in Japan was the highest at 28 percent, while the ratio for people under 15 was the lowest at 12.2 percent, according to the internal affairs ministry.

Japan’s population has been on the decline since peaking at 128.08 million in 2008. The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research predicts Japan’s population will fall below 100 million in 2053.