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In the News

Japan - a population in crisis!

Vicki Woolven

26th January 2023

Japan's birth rate has plummeted to 1.3 babies per woman, with births dropping to a record-low of 800,000 last year. A birth rate of 2.1 is needed to keep the population stable.

But what has triggered this population crisis? And what can be done?

Japan's prime minister, Fumio Kishida has issued a stark warning to his country - have more children, or risk dragging their country into the depths of dysfunction. But is the population listening?

Japan is experiencing a demographic crisis - it has one of the fastest ageing populations in the world, with the over 60s making up almost a third of the population. The population has been in decline for several years. During 2020-21, the population fell by 644,000. Currently the population stands at 125 million, but this is predicted to fall to 88 million by 2065 - declining 30% in 45 years - a figure that is unheard of.

What is the government doing?

Well they are literally telling couples to 'go home and multiply', and this is being backed up by a package of financial incentives for those who do, such as bigger child allowances, more access to after-school care, and reforms around parental leave.

But the younger generation of Japan are not being persuaded. In the past the government have tried to increase the birth rate with all sorts of subsidies offered, but these often target people who already have children, ignoring the reasons that so many young people don't want to start a family.

My blog post yesterday mentioned patriarchal systems being an issue in Japan - and that plays a big part here. In Japan women are usually expected to give up work after having children. Many women don't want to follow this path - they want a career. Only 1 in 6 people between 17 and 19 expect to get married - they might want to marry and have children but know that this is challenging economically, particularly with the rising cost of living and paying for things like 'cram' school and university tuition. The economy is stagnant, meaning that wages are low and people are having to work long hours for them - another reason to put off having a family. Politicians are promising better support for families, but most people are not convinced that this will materialise.

PM Kishida fears that Japan is at a “now or never moment” in terms of its population crisis. Its people must act now to get the population figures back on track - but is stubborn Japan likely to? It remains to be seen!

Vicki Woolven

Vicki Woolven is Subject Lead for Key Stage 4 Humanities at tutor2u. Vicki previously worked as a Head of Geography and Sociology for many years, leading her department to be one of the GA's first Centres of Excellent, and has been a content writer, senior examiner and local authority Key Practitioner for Humanities.

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