National / Social Issues

Japan has world's lowest proportion of working-age people, U.N. report says

Kyodo

Japan has the world’s lowest ratio of people of working age to those aged 65 or over, according to a U.N. report released Monday.

While the ratio, a measure of the burden placed on the working population by the nonworking elderly, is falling worldwide, Japan stands out with just 1.8 people aged 25 to 64 for each person aged 65 or over, according to the report, called “World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights.”

“Japan in 2019 has the lowest potential support ratio of all countries or areas with at least 90,000 inhabitants,” said the report from the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

In comparison, the ratio stands at 3.3 in Australia and New Zealand, and 3.0 in Europe and North America. Sub-Saharan Africa has a ratio of 11.7.

By 2050, it is projected that 48 countries, mainly from Europe, North America, East Asia and Southeast Asia, will have support ratios below 2.

“These low values underscore the potential impact of population aging on the labor market and economic performance as well as the fiscal pressures that many countries are likely to face in the coming decades in relation to the public systems of health care, pensions and social protection schemes for older persons,” the report said.

John Wilmoth, director of the department’s population division, said that the changes in the support ratio over time are “inevitable,” pointing to longer life spans and smaller families.

Describing Japan’s aging society as “partly a positive story,” he suggested the country take steps such as changing the retirement age and encouraging older workers to remain in the labor force to alter the support ratio in the long run.

The report also indicated that the world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion in the next three decades from the current 7.7 billion to 9.7 billion in 2050.

The study concludes that the world’s population could peak around the end of this century at almost 11 billion.

India is expected to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation around 2027.

For the first time ever, the report indicated that in 2018 the number of people who are 65 and over outnumbered children under 5 around the globe, which is leading to the prospect of having twice as many elderly people as children under 5 in 2050.

The number of people over 80 is expected to triple from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050.

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