Cultural Anthropology

Japans Population Crisis



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Not many people know it, but behind its recovered economy and the sunny public outlook that Japan has, it is approaching one of the greatest dilemmas of its long history. The crisis facing Japan, that more and more citizens of the country are aware of but are at a loss as to how to fix it, is the problem of the aging society and the real potential for population shrinkage.

For many years, Japanese people have had one of the longest life expectancies in the world. Now, barring the fact that the statistics being used to calculate this expectancy are somewhat skewed for Japan (we might talk about this later), with a nation full of seniors who are less and less capable of caring for themselves, who will take care of them? The obvious answer, and quite accurate for traditional Japanese society, is their children. This has been true for quite some time. However, what if those children stop having children, or have less children than ever before? Can we see that as the society ages, and the number of children born drops, money going into social security and taxes decreases, as does the number of people capable of caring for elderly people? This is the current fact in Japan. Modern young folks are, in the main, quite uninterested in traditional Japanese values. They are interested in having their own life, making their own money for their own freedom, and thus the number of marriages and the number of children born has vastly decreased. In fact, it can no longer be depended on that one person will reproduce at least once, in order to maintain population stability. And so the Japanese society's ability to care for its aging population will decrease.

Additionally, as the older people start to die, one would expect enough babies to be born that the population would at least stay stable. This is not happening. People will be dying far faster than the birth rate can replace them very soon. In fact, statistics point to a startling possibility. It is expected that Japan's population may start to shrink within five to ten years, and that the current population of one hundred-twenty-four million (124,000,000), will shrink drastically by 2050. How many people will live in Japan by that time? Experts predict about 50 million.

Now as for the average life expectancy. It is true that Japanese women are considered to have the longest life expectancy in the world, and this may be mostly accurate, but consider the following. Life expectancy is calculated using everyone born and dying. Japan has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world, pretty much, but they are having far fewer babies, on average, than much of the world. And life expectancy does not consider infant mortality RATE (which is a percentage) but rather considers infant mortality NUMBERS. So since the raw number is drastically lower than many other countries, this contributes to the high life expectancy of Japanese people. Interesting, eh?

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