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Business News/ News / India/  What Japan is planning to stop the country from ‘disappearing’ amid population crisis?
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What Japan is planning to stop the country from ‘disappearing’ amid population crisis?

‘Simply cannot wait any longer’ in solving the problem of its low birth rate, Japan's PM said

The country saw 799,728 births in 2022, the lowest number on record and the first ever dip below 800,000, the health ministry pointed out (Photo: AFP)Premium
The country saw 799,728 births in 2022, the lowest number on record and the first ever dip below 800,000, the health ministry pointed out (Photo: AFP)

Japan will “disappear" if action is not taken to curb its slowing birthrate, a senior adviser to the Japanese prime minister has warned. The comment comes as last week the health ministry pointed out that country's birth rate has hit a new record low, with just 799,728 births in 2022, the lowest number on record and the first time it has dipped below 800,000. 

This is a worrying trend that has persisted for decades, and now, the number of births has almost halved in the past 40 years, with more than 1.5 million recorded in 1982.

The country’s birthrate is “not falling gradually, it’s heading straight down", warned Masako Mori, an adviser to the PM, and added, “A nosedive means children being born now will be thrown into a society that becomes distorted, shrinks and loses its ability to function." 

Earlier in January, PM Fumio Kishida also pointed out Japan “simply cannot wait any longer" in solving the problem of its low birth rate. 

How acute is the low birth rate crisis in Japan? 

This decline in births is compounded by a record high for post-war deaths in Japan last year, at over 1.58 million. This means that deaths have outpaced births for over a decade, creating a growing problem for the world's third-largest economy. 

Moreover, the fertility rate of 1.3 is far below the rate of 2.1 required to maintain a stable population without immigration. Furthermore, the country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, with nearly one in 1,500 people in Japan aged 100 or older in 2020.

Leaders now face a ballooning elderly population, along with a shrinking workforce to fund pensions and healthcare as demand from the aging population surges.

How is Japan planning to address the low birth rate crisis? 

In January, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned that Japan is "on the brink of not being able to maintain social functions." 

To address this, a new government agency will be set up in April, with Kishida aiming to double the government's spending on child-related programs. 

Can child-rearing support solve the low birth rate crisis?

Several social factors contribute to the low birth rate, including the high cost of living, limited space, and lack of child care support in cities, which make it difficult for couples to raise children. 

In 2022, Japan was ranked one of the world’s most expensive places to raise a child, according to research from financial institution Jefferies. And yet, the country’s economy has stalled since the early 1990s. “The average real annual household income declined from 6.59 million yen ($50,600) in 1995 to 5.64 million yen ($43,300) in 2020, according to 2021 data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare," a CNN article cited. 

Additionally, attitudes toward marriage and starting families have shifted, with more couples putting off both during the pandemic, and young people feeling increasingly pessimistic about the future.

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Published: 07 Mar 2023, 04:41 PM IST
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