June 30, 2006


Alarm at Japan population trends (Chris Hogg, 6/30/06, BBC)

There is now a greater proportion of elderly people in Japan than anywhere else in the world, according to the country's government.

Preliminary figures from last year's Japanese census show that the number of people aged 65 and over reached 21%, overtaking Italy for the first time.

The ratio of children under 15 is also lower than anywhere else in the world.

New ideas will be needed if Japan is to stem or even reverse what has become a worrying trend.

Nope. The old idea.

Japan's population now world's grayest (Japan Times, 7/01/06)

The proportion of people age 65 and older in Japan reached the world's highest at 21 percent in 2005, surpassing Italy's 20 percent, the government said Friday in a preliminary report.

At the same time, the percentage of people under 15 in the total population hit the world's lowest at 13.6 percent, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said.

For both men and women, the percentage of unmarried people went up in all groups age 20 to 64, the report says.

As China Ages, a Shortage of Cheap Labor Looms (HOWARD W. FRENCH, 6/30/06, NY Times)
By 2020 about a third of Shanghai's population, currently 13.6 million, will consist of people over the age of 59, remaking the city's social fabric and placing huge new strains on its economy and finances.

The changes go far beyond Shanghai, however. Experts say the rapidly graying city is leading one of the greatest demographic changes in history, one with profound implications for the entire country.

The world's most populous nation, which has built its economic strength on seemingly endless supplies of cheap labor, China may soon face manpower shortages. An aging population also poses difficult political issues for the Communist government, which first encouraged a population explosion in the 1950's and then reversed course and introduced the so-called one-child policy a few years after the death of Mao in 1976.

That measure has spared the country an estimated 390 million births but may ultimately prove to be another monumental demographic mistake. With China's breathtaking rise toward affluence, most people live longer and have fewer children, mirroring trends seen around the world.

Those trends and the extraordinarily low birth rate have combined to create a stark imbalance between young and old. That threatens the nation's rickety pension system, which already runs large deficits even with the 4-to-1 ratio of workers to retirees that it was designed for.

Demographers also expect strains on the household registration system, which restricts internal migration. The system prevents young workers from migrating to urban areas to relieve labor shortages, but officials fear that abolishing it could release a flood of humanity that would swamp the cities.

As workers become scarcer and more expensive in the increasingly affluent cities along China's eastern seaboard, the country will face growing economic pressures to move out of assembly work and other labor-intensive manufacturing, which will be taken up by poorer economies in Asia and beyond, and into service and information-based industries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 30, 2006 9:32 AM

Ah, the results of the Glorious One-Child Policy, hailed by Dick Lamm-ites and Pat Robertson alike. Never in human history was such an egregiously anti-human policy ever implemented.

Posted by: Brad S at June 30, 2006 10:04 AM

The cultural favoring of men is a force multiplier of the policy as well.

Not only do they have a collapsing population, but even a reversal of the policy leaves them short of women to bear the 2.1 children needed.

A science fiction writer would predict that China aggressively pursues cloning with in the next 5-10 years.

Posted by: Bruno at June 30, 2006 10:25 AM

Nice of the Japanese to run the experiment for us.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 30, 2006 12:13 PM

The Japanese government have been worrying about this openly since at least 1999 (Year 11 of the Heisei Emperor), when the government put out the shoushika taisaku suishin kihon houshin, and general concern over the issue preceded that by some years.

They have seen this coming for quite some time -- it's only very recently that Westerners have woken up to the danger in their own dying populations.

Posted by: Taeyoung at June 30, 2006 12:38 PM

'99 was too late.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2006 12:48 PM


Actually the population implosion has been on the radar in the U.S. since the early 90's, when we started seeing demographic projections that indicated Europe had fallen below replacement level while the U.S. was still at replacement rate. Unfortunately OJ is correct, even in 1999 it was too late to do anything meaningful about the problem. The only thing for the Japanese Government to do is mount a full campaign - social, political, religious, and economic - to encourage Japanese couples to reproduce. Offer financial incentives, social acknowledgement, reduce the costs associated with birth, reward large families by acknowledging their contribution to Japan's future, that sort of thing. I'd recommend the same thing to the Europeans but honestly, outside of the Poles, Danes, Brits, Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, and Italians - I don't really much care.

Posted by: Robert Modean at June 30, 2006 1:51 PM

Oh, and to clarify - my suggested solution wouldn't solve Japan's problem, merely make the outcome less bad. Either way you look at it Japan's going to require sustained population growth for the next two generations just to maintain the status quo.

Posted by: Robert Modean at June 30, 2006 1:55 PM

If there are fewer Japanese or Russians or whomever, what difference does is make? Whatís the advantage of maintaining the status quo? The lot of earthling societies is to change and grow or wane with the circumstances.

Itís been forecast that the complexion of U.S. citizens will be predominately brown in a couple of generations and other than noting it as an interesting development, why should we care?

The Chinese one-child policy is a good example of what happens when "leaders" make laws contrary to human nature.

Posted by: erp at July 2, 2006 8:19 AM

Yes, all that matters is the ideas that undergird the society. It won't matter what color our people are because they'll be Judeo-Christian Americans. Russia and Japan are dying off because they believe in nothing but self, as all rationalist societies do and are.

Posted by: oj at July 2, 2006 8:48 AM

Okay -- Point of total agreement.

Posted by: erp at July 2, 2006 10:43 AM