Japan's Population Now So Old That Sales Of Adult Diapers Exceed Those For Babies

George Washington's picture

As we noted in 2009, Japan has an incredibly old population ... which will put an increasingly heavy  burden on the economy:

Franco Modigliani won the Nobel Prize in Economics 1985, partly for his “life cycle hypothesis“, which states that spending and savings patterns are predictable and largely a function of age demographics. In other words, Modigliani’s hypothesis is basically that age demographics largely determine the health and robustness of an economy.




Specifically ... the basic health of any country’s economy is largely driven by the number of its citizens who are in their peak spending years.


For example, the peak Japanese spending range has been estimated to be comprised of 39-43 year olds. The more 39-43 year olds Japan has at any given time, the more consumer spending there will be, as these are the folks who are the big spenders in Japan. Dent argues that the Japanese economy will tend to grow when the number of 39-43 year olds grows, and to shrink when it shrinks.




Countries with a large percentage of elderly people and a small proportion of productive workers will have less productive output and a larger demand for social services than those with a higher percentage of workers. It should also be obvious that this will tend to drag down the economy.




Japan has the worst demographics of all, with a staggering percentage of elderly who need to be taken care of by the young:


Chart 2: Old Age Dependency Ratios for Selected Countries


clip image0025 thumb The OTHER Economic CrisisSource: http://data.un.org/

Business Week gives an update:

Last year, for the first time, sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies.

Given its quickly-aging population, Japan will have a hard time competing with younger countries like China, Brazil or India.

Here's China:

ch all2 The OTHER Economic Crisis

Brazil has a much younger age demographic.

And India’s is even younger than Brazil’s.

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biggbear77's picture

this story is so old you can wipe a baby's bottom with it...

Orwell was right's picture

Laying aside the specifics of the Japanese situation....what aggravates me about these "old people outnumber the youth" articles....is the unspoken premise that the problem is too few youngsters.    If we are EVER to get any balance in population and resource usage, then we have to go thru a point on the population curve where (temporarily) old people are a larger percentage of the population.   Once we get past this curve, and assuming we are smart enough to stablize popluation growth, then the ratios will swing back.     Otherwise, our only options are disaster, war, and famine.


gaoptimize's picture

It shouldn’t be about quantity, but quality.  It pisses me off that 70% of the kids of the demographic that voted 95% for the incumbent POTUS (> 40% overall) are born out of wedlock, and I (and the other producers) largely have to pay for them to the tune of $9K/year. 

My wife and I pour our lives into our kids, they are way over achievers in school, and I have little doubt they will over-contribute during their lives, helping to bring on the Singularity and bringing joy to those around them.

I want my money back to enable me to have more children and I want the laws changed to allow for a bigger and more resilient family.  Society is screwing itself by not allowing me this pursuit of happiness.


Satan's picture

Mean reversion...bitchez.

NEOSERF's picture

Ah just what we need...a new metric like the Lehman moment...the Depends moment when sales of adult crossover baby diapers.  Perhaps we can get projections for each country.  Earthquakes unfortunately will probably take care of a lot of the population issues in Japan in the next 35 years...

Bahamas's picture

For those companies that make the diapers, demographics is not a problem.

slackrabbit's picture

Judge Dredd solved this problem along time ago...




rsnoble's picture

Then again maybe more people are deciding to just pull out instead of getting pregnant.  Why subject your kid to a sorry ass life.  You can't afford it and it will make your life miserable, the kid will be subjected to a shit economy and have no future, therefore doesn't make sense to have a kid.  Fine by me as this should increase anal sex activity.

forwardho's picture

rs, A correct hypothesis. Saw this end while working on the Merc in 80's.  Cured me of ever thinking about bringing another one into this cluster f.

Muppet's picture

The "adult diaper" claim has been here before.  I recall reading this before on ZH... last year I believe.

Tompooz's picture

The positive side is that Japan's younger generation looks forward to inherit more houses, more space, more assets, smaller cities than their toiling salarymen-parents.

What's not to like in a Japan with only 50 million inhabitants?


Lost My Shorts's picture

Japan is an odd place, and perhaps you don't fully understand the dynamics on the ground.  It's very mountainous so travel is slow and fiercely expensive.  You might think of it as a small country, but it feels much bigger when you are in it.

Those 50 million remaining Japanese will all be in Tokyo, squeezing into the same over-stuffed subway cars and rabbit hutch apartments as now, while many parts of Japan will be nearly abandoned ghost towns.  OK, that's a little bit exaggerated but not much.  I am sitting in Takayama, an old, historical tourist town with zero nightlife and almost no young people to be seen.  The little public bus that circles the town would have been empty except for us with our luggage.  Two days ago I was in Shinjuku in Tokyo where the streets are crowded with young people and the subway platforms are so crowded you can barely get onto them, let alone the trains.

No one is coming back to Takayama when all the old folks die off.

Setarcos's picture

Fukushima?  Who likes that?

AND the current economic assumptions are based on GROWTH, NOT shrinkage; so your propositions are very flawed.

bobthecat's picture

Why does Zh repost articles that basically rewrite articles everyone has already seen and articles where the majority of the "write up" is in quotations?? 


And hasn't Kyle Bass been talking about this since the Salt Conference......

Setarcos's picture

Perhaps ZH recovers topics because not EVERYONE has seen them and because there are new readers, or old ones who could not see the relevence first time round?

binky's picture


Imagine that skit with Hirohito and Oddjob (Harold Sakata) in Drag.



devo's picture

I guess we better kill all the old people, eh ZH?

Venerability's picture

The World's poorest countries - bar none - also are those with the lowest average age, not the highest.

Yes, low-average-age countries are attractive going forward as providing markets of new consumers.

But since they also tend to be the poorest countries, often without adequate infrastucture, they present many other problems as producers and successful economic competitors - think of much of Continental Africa.

Countries with a low average age also tend to be the least stable - as the Middle East amply shows.

This piece is very biased - and rather inaccurate.

Mark Noonan's picture

Survey says:  Wrong Answer.  The median age in the United States in 1940 was 29, now it is 35.  Anyone want to argue that we're doing better, over all, than we were in 1940?  That our future is more hopeful?  That our politics are more stable?

are we there yet's picture

Yes, 1940 was younger, whiter, higher work ethic, low entitelment, more self reliant, freer market economy.

gaoptimize's picture

Their men are weak-willed and testosterone-defficient if they don't want to fill up a house with children by the numerous avatars of Ama no Uzume that are the Japanese young women.  I'd have 10 children by 2 of them if it was legal. What a deplorable situation when some of the finest people in the world won't procreate.  As with so many things, I blame the death cult that is the Left. 

August's picture

Modern economic theory teaches us that "consumption" is the key to a society's prosperity; seems like octogenarians are going to remain major league consumers of personal healthcare, pharmaceuticals, physician- hospital- and nursing-home services, not to mention bed-pans and diapers.  Japan is setting itself up as a powerhouse of consumption!

Or did I miss something in Econ 101?

fukidontknow's picture

So no shortage of hosts for the parasitic single, good news of sort I guess.

lolmao500's picture

The Japanese economy needs to really crash and stop being on the edge of crash so more children are born.

IMO any way you cut it, Japan is done as a superpower for the next generation at least... they may field nukes, but as a ``strong society`` overall, they are not there. The modern Japanese youngsters are sissies compared to their grand parents.

slackrabbit's picture


In return for 'saving' the banks, they have actually not restored security but actually bred insecurity among the population.

As a result younger couples aren't having kids because they

a. can't afford a house

b. don't know when they will lose their jobs

c. knows that there won’t be any government entitlements’ or pensions for them when they retire.

All in all creating a slow lingering death because politicians and older generations don’t want to face reality.


The irony is, the west is making exactly the same mistakes. By trying to bailout out the banking system a macro problem, they have created a micro problem.


Dan The Man's picture

the demographic cliff coming to china will be a real eye opener.

BattlegroundEurope2011's picture

world wars have a way of "rebalancing" the demographics.

Don Diego's picture

With the productivity increases since the end of WWII we  should  have no problem funding pensions even the worker-retiree ratio goes down. Of course, the theft from the parasites (banks, governments and other leeches) has to stop.

Rustysilver's picture

Albania use to have a solution for the elderly: those who aren't productive were stoned to death. Check your history books.

Incubus's picture

Please...let's not use Eastern Europe as an example for anything noteworthy. 





Jack Sheet's picture

No shit !!  ...err......  never mind

BlackVoid's picture

Yeah, it better for the economy and population just to grow forever and then everyone dies at the same time of starvation. Much more democratic and also good for the economy.

For example Egypt has a very nice demographic distribution, an example to be followed.

/sarc off

Overpopulated countries will suffer a horrifying end with civil war and starvation.

In aging countries, when the active population cannot support the elderly anymore, then they simply won't support them. The average age will just simply drop 10-20 years within a few years time.

Something that cannot go on forever will not go on forever. This applies both to overpopulation (India, Egypt) and aging demographics (Europe, Japan). Both issues are unsustainable.

dolph9's picture

Yes I agree.

The problem with alot of these assumptions of the future is that they assume "business as usual" continues indefinitely.

The only projections of the future which don't assume this are the models produced by the Limits to Growth people.

Dingleberry's picture

Problem is latinos live 20 to a house. 

CH1's picture

No one's problem but yours.

Poule Mouillee's picture

I hate it when a family takes Granddad to the mall, and throws him on a table in the foodcourt to change him.

americanspirit's picture

Adult diapers are only for the ultra-fastidious. As for me, I plan to just let it run down my leg and watch all those young folks give me plenty of room on the bus. When absolutely necessary I'll just let a few friendly dogs clean me up. At that point I'll also be way past caring what others think of me so don't waste your breath telling me what a gross old man I am. I'll just cackle and give you a hug.

shovelhead's picture

Simple solution.

Make sub-machine guns (light weight) available to the residents of nursing homes.

Uncle Matsumoto doesn't get his extra green jello dessert and lowers the captive population by about half.

Low cost demographic adjustment using existing technology.

Handy for Zombies too.



Axenolith's picture

Good luck on those zombies with those low brass trap/skeet loads...

quasimodo's picture

So.....long Depends? Is this bullish?

CH1's picture

Short Socialism. Trade of the Decade.

media_man's picture

Once Japanese bonds aren't worth wiping your bum with how long will these people even live, let along have the scratch to buy Pampers?  Maybe they'll use the bonds as diapers.  Same is true of US as well.   Once it all collapses, it's going to be tough out there for the geezers.


Money Squid's picture

When I am watching the big game I do not have the time or the energy to get up and walk to the restroom so I use depends. Who needs tivo?

CH1's picture

When I am watching the big game I do not have the time or the energy to get up and walk to the restroom so I use depends.

You, sir, are a true modern American!

Poule Mouillee's picture

I wear 'em to the Casino.  I never have to get up from a slot machine that's "just about to turn lucky".

Peter Pan's picture

The diaper imbalance in Japan is just one more example of why GDP is such a poor measure for tracking the health of eonomies.

For as long as we persist with measures such a GDP, the outcomes will be both unsustainable, dangerous and increasingly meaningless.