June 5, 2017


Japan, Short on Babies, Reaches a Worrisome Milestone (JONATHAN SOBLE, JUNE 2, 2017, NY Times)

Since Japan began counting its newborns more than a century ago, more than a million infants have been added to its population each year.

No longer, in the latest discomforting milestone for a country facing a steep population decline. Last year, the number of births in Japan dropped below one million for the first time, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said on Friday. [...]

But the real decline has barely begun.

After Japan's population hit a peak of 128 million at the start of the current decade, it shrank by close to a million in the five years through 2015, according to census data. Demographers expect it to plunge by a third by 2060, to as few as 80 million people -- a net loss of a million a year, on average. [....]

Fewer young people means fewer workers to support a growing cohort of retirees, adding strains to pension and health care systems. Already, in some rural areas, a majority of residents are over 65, and empty houses are a spreading blight.

In a speech to business leaders this week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for a "national movement" to address Japan's demographic challenges. The government has taken steps to keep older workers in their jobs longer, and to encourage companies to invest in automation.

"The labor shortage is getting serious," he said. "To overcome it, we need to improve productivity."

Posted by at June 5, 2017 5:51 AM