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Individuals aged 80 and above now constitute 10 percent of Japan's population

source: Independent

Japan's demographic challenges have taken a concerning turn, marking an unprecedented milestone in the nation's history. According to data recently released by the government, individuals aged 80 and above now constitute 10 percent of Japan's population. This development underscores the severity of Japan's demographic crisis, which has been unfolding since the economic boom of the 1980s.


As of September 15th, approximately 36.23 million people in Japan were aged 65 or older, a record-breaking 29.1 percent of the total population, representing a 0.1-point increase from the previous year. In comparison, Italy and Finland, the second and third-ranked countries, have 24.5 percent and 23.6 percent of their populations aged 65 or older, respectively, as per the internal affairs ministry's statistics.


Japan's internal affairs ministry noted in a press release, "Japan has the highest percentage of elderly population in the world." These statistics were made public on the eve of "Respect-for-the-Aged Day," a national holiday celebrated on September 18th.


The nation is already grappling with a declining birth rate and a shrinking workforce, raising significant concerns about funding pensions and healthcare services, particularly as the demands of an aging population continue to grow. Japan's fertility rate of 1.3 falls well below the 2.1 required to maintain a stable population without immigration, leading to a consistent population decline over the past few decades.


Deaths have consistently outnumbered births in Japan over the last decade, presenting an increasingly complex challenge for the country's leadership. Despite boasting one of the world's highest life expectancies, Japan's population continues to age rapidly.


In response to the growing labor shortage and efforts to revitalize the sluggish economy, the Japanese government has actively promoted the reintegration of elderly citizens and stay-at-home mothers into the workforce. This has resulted in a record number of 9.12 million elderly workers in Japan, with continuous growth over the past 19 years. People aged 65 and above now make up over 13 percent of the country's total workforce, according to the internal affairs ministry's data.


In January, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida issued a stark warning about the population crisis, emphasizing the urgency of the issue. He stated that it needed to be addressed "now or never" and that it "simply cannot wait any longer." Child-rearing support was identified as a top policy priority for ensuring the sustainability and inclusiveness of Japan's economy and society.


Japan's neighboring countries, including China, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan, are grappling with similar challenges, as they seek to motivate young individuals to have more children amidst rising living expenses and increasing social discontent.


South Korea set a new record for the world's lowest fertility rate in the previous year, with women expected to have just 0.79 children in their lifetime. Meanwhile, China experienced its first population decline since the 1960s, with a decrease of approximately 850,000 people in 2022, according to the China National Bureau of Statistics.


As Japan's baby boomer population continues to age, with many turning 75 or older, the nation is increasingly reliant on an elderly labor force. Over nine million elderly individuals are actively working, constituting 13.6 percent of the workforce, or one in seven workers in Japan. While this is less than South Korea's 36.2 percent, it surpasses other developed countries like the United States at 18.6 percent and France at 3.9 percent. More than a third of people between the ages of 70 and 74 are employed in Japan.


By 2040, it is projected that Japan's elderly population will account for 34.8 percent of the total population, emphasizing the need for comprehensive strategies to address the challenges posed by the nation's ongoing demographic transformation.

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