Regarding the Oct. 21 article by Michael Hoffman, “Only immigrants can save Japan,” Hoffman missed the primary reasons Hidenori Sakanaka’s arguments — which he reviewed and quoted — are quite cogent.
Sakanaka suggests that Japan open its immigration policies to allow 10 million immigrants into Japan between now and 2050 (357,000 people per year). Put in perspective Japan’s current (permanent) immigration in 2011 totalled 46,000, down 46 percent from 85,000 in 2006.
So what would an increase in foreign residents such as Sakanaka suggests accomplish for Japan? It would:
• Solve the population decline problems assuming that: (1) the immigration gates are opened soon; (2) immigrants would be limited to an approximately even mix of men and women aged 18-35; (3) most of them would be married or would marry; (4) most of them would have several children over the next 30 years (probable fertility ratio 2.0-3.0) versus Japan’s current 1.3. If this occurred, by 2050: Japan’s population would not have declined but would have increased somewhat over today’s level; those over 65 would have a similar share of the population as they do today; and the workforce share of the population would similarly be about the same.
• Solve the aging population problems. Too many old people means too much cost for their care, reduced savings because they are no longer working and excessive tax loads on the younger population.
• Solve the most important but not frequently recognized problem of population decline: that Japan’s workforce share of the population would decline sharply. A recent study by Keidanren Research points out that the primary problem of the population decline as is now projected is that the country’s workforce, aged 20 to 65 will decline from 66 million to 44 million, a 34 percent decline. The workforce will drop from 51 percent of the population in 2010 to 44 percent of the population in 2050 while the older people will increase from 24 percent to 37 percent.
• Solve the problem of Japan’s economic decline as a world power: The overall problem — too many senior citizens, plus too few workers — will cause reduced production, declines in both domestic and foreign investment, reduced country savings, and a sharp drop in GDP individually and for the country as a whole. The foregoing would also cause Japan to drop from its position as the world’s third largest economic power to the ninth largest.
This, I am sure, is why Sakanaka believes that “only immigration can save Japan.” It should certainly have been mentioned in your article. And the Japanese government should begin to do something about it.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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