Today is a national holiday in Japan: Respect for the Aged Day. And there are a lot of elderly citizens to be respectful to. 26% of Japan’s population is now 65 or older. In the US, it’s 13%.
There’s also a record number over 100:
Reaching the century mark remains a relative rarity for humans, but it is increasingly less so, and perhaps nowhere more than in rapidly aging Japan. The number of Japanese who are at least 100 years old, known as centenarians, has reached 58,820, according to the latest government estimate… A Japanese woman is the oldest person in the world, 116-year-old Misao Okawa, according to Guinness World Records. The oldest man is also Japanese, 111-year-old Sakari Momoi… Advances in health care are contributing to increased longevity in Japan and elsewhere. Japan now has 46.21 centenarians for every 100,000 people. [Compared to 17.28 per 100,000 people in the US]
Chart of births and deaths in Japan16-Sep-2014 18:54
Japan is a rapidly aging society, and is suffering a massive demographic collapse:
Japan’s population began falling in 2004 and is now ageing faster than any other on the planet… [B]y 2060 the number of Japanese will have fallen from 127m to about 87m, of whom almost 40% will be 65 or older…
The government is pointedly not denying newspaper reports that ran earlier this month, claiming that it is considering a solution it has so far shunned: mass immigration. The reports say the figure being mooted is 200,000 foreigners a year. An advisory body to Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, said opening the immigration drawbridge to that number would help stabilise Japan’s population—at around 100m (from its current 126.7m).
But even then there’s a big catch. To hit that target the government would also have to raise the fertility rate from its current 1.39, one of the lowest in the world, up to 2.07. Experts say that a change on that scale would require major surgery to the country’s entire social architecture…
Roughly 2% of Japan’s population is foreign. And even this figure includes large numbers of permanent residents — mostly Chinese and Koreans — who have been here for generations. Tellingly, the recent story about the government’s discussion of immigration broke in the right-wing Sankei newspaper, which is especially unlikely to embrace the idea of a Chinese family living on every Japanese street.
A curious aspect of all this is the population of Japan’s largest cities is actually going up. There are fewer people each year, but the ones who remain are moving to Japan’s 3 biggest cities, resulting in an even more rapid collapse of population in most of the rest of country:
People continue to migrate from around the country to the three major metropolises, Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, where around half of the nation’s population is now concentrated… [There are] municipalities in danger of disappearing altogether.
There are plans being made for Fukuoka and other regional cities, to stem the tide:
Since the late 1970s, Sapporo, Sendai, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka have been viewed as key regional hubs. Despite depopulation elsewhere, these four cities, known collectively as “Sas-Sen-Hiro-Fuku,” have either maintained their size or continued to grow. The prefectures of which they are the capitals—Hokkaidō, Miyagi, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka, respectively—account for roughly 10% of Japan’s gross domestic product and are home to about 12% of the national population. Each of these cities is an academic center hosting a major national university, and all four also have professional baseball and soccer franchises, providing each with a firm local identity. Some people in the national government see these cities as a potential breakwater to stop the flow of migrants to Tokyo.
Earlier this year Fukuoka was designed one of six special economic zones:
…The idea is that in the tokku, as the zones are known in Japan, firms will be able to take steps that are too controversial for the country as a whole, such as hiring and firing workers more easily. The rules are later to be extended nationwide. The brand-new tokku cover a vast swathe of ground. Greater Tokyo is included, as are the region of Kansai, Narita City in Chiba prefecture and Fukuoka. In total, an area producing nearly two-fifths of Japan’s GDP will fall inside the zones…
If you read the articles linked above, you’ll see that these attempts at changes routinely get watered down in their actual implementation, so the big changes that are needed to reverse Japan’s population decline just aren’t happening on a sufficient scale. A likely long-term outcome is that Japan will lose its position as a country with one of the highest GDP’s in the world, and end up being similar to Switzerland: a country with a small but relatively wealthy population.