The line that really jumped out at me from the April 16 story “Japan population drops for third year straight; 25% are elderly” was that “Any suggestion of opening its borders to young workers who could help plug the population gap provokes strong reactions among the public.”

Oh, really? It sounds like a dubious assertion to me, on a par with all the other dubious canards spewed out by the government to justify itself.

It is easy to become confused and to distrust analyses of Japan’s aging and shrinking population. First of all, it’s neither news nor unexpected. Second, it is easy to forecast diametrically opposite outcomes of the situation: long-term burdens modified by short-term gains. The question is, which will prevail, the gains or the burdens?

I am always thinking about revenue stream. The aging population means more expenditures on the elderly, and the population decline affected by the low birthrate outpaced by the elderly death rate means a drying up revenue stream.

Every day there are fewer and fewer people to pay monies to the government to satisfy the government’s obligations and ambitions. I think that speaks against courting big projects like World Cups and Olympic Games.

Isn’t there a short-term financial windfall?

While income tax, pension and health insurance revenue are decreasing with shrinking numbers, the release of the deceased elderly people’s lifetime savings and other assets coupled with the collection of death/inheritance taxes means a significant simultaneous infusion of revenue into the economy and government accounting books.

While the aging population is currently driving up medical, long-term care, social pension and welfare costs, those higher expenditures will not be perpetual.

We will be over the baby boomer hump one day. We will reach the end of the arc of rising financial burdens and a shrinking workforce, and the population will eventually stabilize at a lower level. Then everything will be fine. No? In the meantime, Japan will muddle through with long-suffering perseverance the way it always does. It’s a muddling country.

grant piper

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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