Every day, those who follow Japanese news are bombarded with stories of its increasingly severe demographic situation: Japanese are getting older and there are too few youth to replace retirees from the workforce. Make no mistake, the negative side of this situation that we’ve heard about is real. However, there is a silver lining for Japan in all of this.

The fact is that even though the problem may be more severe in Japan at the moment, the entire world, save the African continent, will have to deal with similar issues sooner or later. At the moment, there is no guideline on how to deal with this unprecedented natural decline in the human population. The world desperately needs somebody to show it how it can best overcome the birth dearth.

What better opportunity could there be for Japan, where the problem is most acute, to provide the example? A twofold, straightforward solution exists:

Not only get more women working, but also make conditions so that women see having children as part of their goals, not as a departure from them.

Allow more immigration and an easier path to Japanese citizenship. Doing so would add much needed numbers to the workforce immediately. And the children that immigrants have will ensure a softer landing for the future workforce of Japan.

I disagree with the skeptics who say Japanese tradition blocks such steps. For a long time, Japanese culture has been open to changing outdated ways that were holding it back.

If Japan has the courage to change again, and to accept new roles for women and outsiders, it will reap all the benefits of its position as a global leader.

matthew dalton

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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