Credits By: Arabian Business
In 2022, Japan faced a profound demographic challenge as all 47 of its prefectures recorded a population decline, leading to a significant decrease of nearly 800,000 Japanese people. This unsettling trend marked two unprecedented records for the nation, setting it on an uncharted path that many other countries are also anticipated to traverse.
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Japan’s Prime Minister called the demographic trend a crisis and pledged to take action. However, despite national efforts, the population decline persisted, except for some small towns that managed to make a difference through determined initiatives.
Recent data revealed that deaths in Japan reached an all-time high of over 1.56 million, while the number of births plummeted to just 771,000 in 2022. Notably, this marked the first time the number of newborns fell below 800,000 since the inception of records.
Even with a substantial increase of over 10% in foreign residents, reaching 2.99 million, the overall population continued its 14-year decline, settling at 122.42 million in 2022.
The implications of Japan’s aging population are widespread, affecting various aspects of society. Over half of all municipalities are classified as depopulated districts, schools are closing down, and more than 1.2 million small businesses have owners in their 70s without successors.
The media landscape reflects the demographic shift as well, with programs geared towards an older audience and commercials advertising funeral services, joint relief supplements, and incontinence pads.
Even the underworld has felt the effects, with a majority of yakuza members being over 50, and a rising trend of senior adult content in the entertainment industry.
Japan has been taking steps to address the declining birthrate, launching the Children and Families Agency in April and promising increased spending on childcare and allowances. However, the impact of previous childcare and education subsidies on the birthrate has been limited.
Approximately 300 small towns have managed to boost births through generous incentives and policies to create child-friendly environments, with some benefiting from migration by prospective parents.
While Japan is not alone in facing declining birth rates, with the average fertility rate in wealthy OECD nations being 1.66, below the replacement rate of 2.1, it remains at the forefront of this demographic challenge. Other countries in East Asia, such as Taiwan and South Korea, are also grappling with precipitous declines in fertility rates.
As Japan forges ahead, it seeks to find innovative solutions to its demographic decline, navigating through uncharted territory with the hope of maintaining societal functions and ensuring a sustainable future.