Japan’s Demographic Disaster

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by John W. Traphagan via The Diplomat,

Japan is faced with an unprecedented population challenge that will have social, economic, and political consequences for years to come.

Last August, I wrote an article for The Diplomat  that discussed some of the issues Japan is facing in relation to population decline.  As I noted, the population has dropped for three years in a row.  Recently, the Japanese government announced that the population decrease for 2012 is expected to be 212,000—a new record—while the number of births is expected to have fallen by 18,000 to 1,033,000—also a record low.  Projections by the Japanese government indicate that if the current trend continues, the population of Japan will decline from its current 127.5 million to 116.6 million in 2030, and 97 million in 2050. This is truly astonishing and puts Japan at the forefront of uncharted demographic territory; but it is territory that many other industrial countries also are beginning to enter as well. 

Predicting the consequences of Japan's demographic shift is difficult.   And it is important to remember that these are projections; it seems to me unlikely that this trend will continue for the next century without some sort of intervening political, cultural, or economic factors that generate increased immigration or more robust fertility rates.  Indeed, there have been modest—very modest—increases in the number of foreign residents in Japan over the past twenty years, with a little over twice the number today (2,134,151) as compared to 1990 (1,075,317). Many towns have developed international centers where opportunities are developed and supported, creating contexts for interactions between local residents and foreigners such as a monthly English dinner hosted in the town where I have done fieldwork for several years. 

Government officials have often explained to me that one of the goals of these initiatives is to create contexts in which Japanese people can interact, and thus become more comfortable with, foreigners.  The widespread presence of foreign English teachers supported through the JET program and other English language programs has also meant that, unlike forty for fifty years ago, most younger Japanese have grown up regularly interacting with individuals from other countries.   At the same time, there has been some immigration of women from other Asian countries, such as the Philippines, into rural parts of Japan for the purpose of marrying men who otherwise would have had difficulties finding a wife among the native population.  These developments may allow for increased openness to immigration in the future, although for the most part, the Japanese government has remained lukewarm, at best, when it comes to allowing any significant increase in the number of permanent residents or immigrants. Naturalized Japanese citizenship remains difficult to obtain. 

While predicting the future of these demographic trends is difficult, the causes are at least somewhat decipherable.  The proximate cause of population decline in Japan are fairly clear: a low fertility combined with increased life expectancy has led to a population structure that is increasingly weighted towards older members of society.  Currently there are significantly fewer people under 30 than there are between the ages of 30 and 60.  As the population of middle-aged individuals grows older and dies, there will be far fewer people remaining behind.  In other words, the current middle-aged generation of Japanese has failed to replace itself.  The question, of course, is why?

Various studies of demographic change in Japan have linked declining fertility to other changing social factors such as increased education, delayed marriage age, more economic opportunities for women, and the expense of raising children in modern, urban societies.  All of these have played a role in reducing fertility over the past few decades.  In addition, beyond delayed marriage many Japanese have chosen not to marry and, as a result, not have children.  According to the 2010 census, 30% of all households in Japan were single, representing the largest category of household composition in the country.  A significant portion of these households were widows over the age of 65. At the same time, a not insignificant portion were women and men in both early adulthood and middle-age who have simply chosen to not get married.  In a society like Japan where child-birth out of wedlock is stigmatized, the decision not to marry also normally means that one has chosen not to have children.

Indeed, there are many women in Japan today in their forties and fifties who have opted for a career over marriage and child-rearing.  In Japan, social pressures make it difficult for women to manage a career while also raising a family.  Furthermore, recent trends suggest that both men and women are increasingly uncertain about the value of marriage and having a family.  A government survey of people between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2011 showed that over 61% of unmarried men among those surveyed lacked a girlfriend and 49.5% unmarried women had no boyfriend, the latter being a new record. Forty percent of respondents indicated that there was no need to marry and 45% of men showed no interest in "dating the opposite sex." These results, which represented significant increases over the same type of survey conducted in previous years, have raised concerns that the population problem Japan is facing will not change in the foreseeable future. 

The consequences of changing attitudes about marriage and gender roles and associated low fertility are considerable.  One problem that has arisen is that many single women are living on very low incomes and have joined the ranks of the poor.  Recent research has shown that 1 in 3 single women of working age in Japan qualify as poor and that the number of poor women in Japan is likely to increase; by 2030 it is projected that 1 in 5 women in Japan will be single. Many of these women may well be living in some level of poverty. 

Another problem Japan faces is that the general low fertility rate means there are not enough younger people paying into the national pension program, and this will cause increasing strain on government coffers as the proportion of elderly (currently about 23% of the population is over 65) continues to grow. 

Finally, the decline of the population over the next few decades, and the shortage of young people in particular, will have a significant impact on the Japanese labor force.  Questions related to how to maintain economic growth—an issue that has been at the forefront of thinking about the country for the past twenty years, due to a generally sluggish economy—with a decreasing population are both complex and on the minds of policymakers.  One obvious solution to this would be for Japan to relax immigration policies and allow for more workers, particularly healthcare workers, to enter the country.  As noted above, to date this has not been a particularly palatable solution, but this may well change as younger Japanese, with regular experience and interactions with foreigners, move into positions of power and guide policy.

An alternative to this social-centered solution of increased immigration has been raised in recent years.  Rather than relaxing immigration laws, some have proposed increasing investment in robotics as a means of addressing the conflict of a shortfall of labor with the need for workers.  This idea has been raised particularly in relation to elder care, where demand for workers has increased rapidly with the promulgation of the longer term care insurance program in 2001 and the continued growth of the elderly population.  It may well be that a technological solution to Japan’s population problem will be seen as preferable to other possible solutions.

Obviously, only time will tell.  But Japan is faced with an unprecedented population challenge that will have social, economic, and political consequences over the next century—consequences that will not only affect Japan, but also influence Japan’s trading partners as well as its political and military allies. 

There is, perhaps, no single variable in the complex web of East Asian politics more uncertain in terms of how it may influence future relations throughout the region than the fate of Japan’s population, because the manner in which that population changes over the next several decades is both difficult to predict and likely to have a profound influence in shaping the regional role Japan is able to play as a political, cultural, and economic power.

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mightycluck's picture

I was watchng Fox Business today and this guy came on discussing Japan as well. He pointed out that the idiots thinking that today's jobs numbers were a great sign were deluded. The USA is Japan, but 10 years behind. I found his blog.


Freddie's picture

TV viewers and Hollywood "movie" watchers keep the matrix alive and help the elites stay in power.  Nice job.

BigDuke6's picture

A managed population decline is the only hope for the planet with finite resources.

Japans population is ridiculously high anyway - they live like ants.

Scare stories are put about by folks who worry about less consumers.

Africa next.

kaiserhoff's picture

Predictions about the future usually look ridiculous a few years out.

The "disaster" is a function of socialist debt and overinvolvement in the lives of the populace.  This too shall pass.

Finally, as Duke points out, if I were Japanese, I would look forward to a little liebensraum, (living space).

EmmittFitzhume's picture

I prefer Darwinism over Eugenics

trav777's picture

then you're a motherfucking idiot.

trav777's picture


Africa...didn't their population quintuple in the past few decades as western food aid subsidized a ridiculously high birthrate?  Same thing in arabfuck countries. 

The Four Horsemen ride hard in Africa

Marco's picture

It was our oil imports which subsidized the arabfuck countries though.

Againstthelie's picture

I envy the Japanese. Here in Germany we also have the same decline in the birth rate, but a criminal regime has flooded Europe with a third world population that is EXPLODING, while the Germans and Europeans pay for their own genocide.

Central Europe is - like Japan - overpopulated anyway and a shrinking population would be a blessing for everyone and mother nature.

But "thanks" to a completely unnatural and sick interest slavery system, that collapses without GROWTH, which means exponential consumption of resources, MSM media are in full force for propaganda mode pro immigration because Shylock wants endless pounds of flesh...

Ofcourse the "elite" is not living in the mutlicultural ghettos - pardon: paradise - they are living in their segregated villas and their children are sent to expensive private schools.

A very diabolical system that claims genocide and eternal war WITHIN societies, was something that would be wonderful while everyone not agreeing with this HUGE LIE is daemonized.

Therefore i envy and admire the Japanese. Their population will shrink in numbers, they will have to deal with some economic problems for a certain time, until a new equilibrium for the modern way of life will be found (more people who do not want children compared to times, where children also were life savers when people became old), but the japanese people, the society, the unique culture of this people and their community will stay fully intact and therefore will stay robust (if i compare the multicultural society under a desaster like Kathrina with the behaviour of a homogeneous nation, a people, when a desaster that is even worse, like Fukushima, happens, i just become sick, what is happening to the nations of european descent and what they allow is done to them...).

BigDuke6's picture

Yep - for being the finest in europe you have now been officially holocaust proofed by barbara and her NY buddies.


And if a few teen girls have to be gang raped or murdered thats a small price to pay.



trav777's picture

Fuckers like Mike Krieger voted for the present pig.  A racial vote.  Out of guilt or trying to have "evidence" to prove a negative.  Futile, but such is the way of the conditioned.

The majority has elected multicult here too.  And they will destroy themselves.  It's pretty simple and it has a nice, clean historical arc to it.  See, nature doesn't care what we value; it has its own forces of creation and destruction.  We might think this or that mountain is pretty and nature decides to blow it up.  Nature might burn down a forest we like and it's barren for longer than a human lifespan.  Mt. St. Helens is still surrounded by barren territory even 30 years now later.

the cretin brown population is simply the force of destruction coming to wipe away what was created.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  It won't be the end of white society or white people, but it is the end of the expansion of "enlightenment" and "western civilization" and all of this.  Brown people don't give a shit about women's rights and this crap.  A woman in africa is more likely to be raped than graduate high school.  What this says to apparently only people who are intelligent enough to see forests for trees is that the population there values rape more than education for women.  It's really that bluntly true...stupid is as stupid DOES.  Core values are expressed via action. 

It's pretty clear that the expansion phase of creative society is over and now things go the other direction.  Eventually, there may be another reawakening; who knows.  But countries such as Germany and the rest of them are either going to wake the fuck up NOW or else they are lost.  But waking up, just like I keep saying, is going to require slaying a lot of sacred jewish cows and deenergizing a lot of jew-powered 3rd rails.

Or to put it another way, it's going to require acting SHAMELESSLY ethnocentrically and discriminatory, like jews do.

There's nothing of value in any culture just because it's a culture.  Fuck the injuns, fuck savages.  Nobody, even THEM, likes their own culture.  They always want to have what others have.  But to say these things is apocryphal; people won't go near this even if they're only THINKING the thoughts.  It's too scary; being racist is REALLY THAT EVIL.  But that's a learnt response.  And it's a fiction.  But whatever. 

What's going to happen is going to happen and life goes on.

Taffy Lewis's picture

Hey Trav,

I don't know if you check back on your posts, but I agree with what you are saying.

But you say "It's pretty clear that the expansion phase of creative society is over and now things go the other direction.'

I'm taking my talents to Thailand where my wife is from - with our 2 kids - and I will feel MUCH better helping out hard-working, happy locals instead of this waste-of-space entitlement society of worthless fucks. I refuse to support it.


duo's picture

don't usually agree with  you Trav, but this one was out of the park.  I wonder if TPTB really want to run the world like the old Ottoman Empire.

ZeroAvatar's picture

As a country and a race, Russia is probably the Caucasian's last holdout.

AnAnonymous's picture

A managed population decline is the only hope for the planet with finite resources.

Well, some others might think that the only hope for the planet is a reduction of consumption. But those others are certainly not 'american'.

And as such, they also know that a decline in 'american' population is absolutely no guarantee of a decline in consumption.

Going back to the number of 'americans' on 1776,July,4th might not be enough in this regard.

Yeah, it would take much more than a managed 'american' population decline to 'save' the planet...

billwilson's picture


1. Japan is overcrowded now, hence overpopulated, so population decline is a good thing ... but can cause problems if too fast. China will have the same issues shortly.

2. An easy solution is to increase the percentage of women in the work force. Now most women who get married stop working. If they were encouraged to continue working you would have a) more workers and b) more women getting married. So more taxpayers, more workers and more kids. 

3. Immigration is not really required ... remember Japan is overpopulated.

sangell's picture

In vitro fertilization and egg implantation in surrogate mothers would seem to be a solution. Either Japanese women in their mid forties to late fifties whose career has peaked or paying third world woman to bear Japanese children. I am surprised governments facing demographic decline have not yet begun to 'manufacture' replacement citizens in this way.

Along with robotics, Japan may also want to consider making Humanzees or implanting human genes into apes to create more capable animals.

trav777's picture

you mean black people?  those are already invented

andrewp111's picture

How about inventing robots to raise the children? And while they are at it, they can develop robots to care for the bed-ridden elderly.

chubbyjjfong's picture

Forty percent of respondents indicated that there was no need to marry and 45% of men showed no interest in "dating the opposite sex." 

Does that mean they want to date the same sex?  Just asking..

Colonel Klink's picture

Rut roh, that does sound homo!

johnconnor's picture

No, it is just in Japan you have very advanced wanking machines, vibrators and lady-like robots... 

Freddie's picture

I was thinkin about gettin me one of them "lady robots."  I was afraid she might tell SkyNet that I had guns.  I would tell her about my boating accident.   

cynicalskeptic's picture

Corporate salary man goes out with buddies after work for drinking and hookers or comes home to his sex doll - quiet, submmissive or gets off on cartoon or schoolgirl pornography.   I suspect there's a reason Japanese women are choosing career over marriage.

spdrdr's picture

I for one can hardly wait for the return of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Cedric.

A car for the times, obviously...

Totentänzerlied's picture

Just another manifestation of post-war Japanese (fully fucking insane schizophrenic) culture.

andrewp111's picture

No. Why "date" when it is better to just "hook up"? Dating can be much more expensive than just buying some Viagra and hiring a woman for the night.

post turtle saver's picture

if it floats, flies, or fucks you're better of renting it

vintageyz's picture

Maybe the Bank of Japan will print up more people.  

ersatzteil's picture

And possibly two notes with the same serial. As in Japanese Twins. Just saying what everyone here is thinking...

Obama4Ever's picture

Who the fuck cares? Not like the human race is going extinct.

I'm starting to wonder why I'm even reading ZH's endless FARK, alarmist articles. I'm still a bit exhausted from December's endless harping on the crisis of the US debt ceiling.

Wake me when some real shit happens.

Pure Evil's picture

Hey, wake up fuk wad, obama is finishing the job bush started, namely destroying the country.

Obama4Ever's picture

Sorry, I dropped out of character for a moment there...

suteibu's picture

And thus we turn a society and a culture into an economic equation. The homogeneous Japanese have to allow foreigners into the nation because, a) it's good for the economy and b).....well, there is no "b."  A population, like an economy, does not have to have continuous growth in order to be healthy and stable.  They both rise and fall according to forces beyond the control of those in power.  Any effort to decrease it or increase destabilizes it.

This is a piece of shit article.

Jack Burton's picture

97 million is still an overburden on a very crowded land. I expect the Japanese born today when he/she reaches middle age and finds much more space, mouch more demand for labor, lowered food prices due to less demand and less energy imports needed to fuel the 97 million would have ZERO desire to live in a much more crowded land. It is not like anyone is being killed off, it is a natural drop to a more sane population load.

Those who piss, cry and moan about it are a few elites who want exponential growth. They care only about increased profits not a more sustainable and livable Japan. Screw this fetish for ever growing populations. The people are just coming into balance with their world. But the lunatic exponential growth crowd who know zero about the laws of physics and math think that economic growth can only happen in a growing population base. I call major BS on that old 20th century notion. In case some people haven't notice, we are already well into the 21st century!

Totentänzerlied's picture

Okay, but you get to be the one to tell them their demographics preclude a ponzi-scheme welfare state like what they built last century, and their pension system is an insolvent house of cards! No givesies-backsies! Haha!

But seriously, not much hope that they will be able to manage the transition. They'll do it, and almost certainly get through it better than most other advanced economy societies, but it won't be pretty or fun.

tony wilson's picture

is that you john wayne

is that you mr fujimoto


just the friendly folks from fukishima


Uranium-238 alpha 4.5 billion years Uranium-235 alpha 700 million years Uranium-234 alpha & gamma 245,000 years Plutonium-239 alpha 24,300 years Cesium-137 beta & gamma 30.2 years l Strontium-90 beta 28 years Cobalt-60 beta & gamma 5 years Iodine-125 & 131 beta & gamma 8.1 days



Radionuclide Half Life Radiation Critical Organs Americium-241 430 years alpha, gamma bone & lung Cerium-144 280 days beta, gamma GI tract, lung Ruthenium-106 1 year beta, gamma GI tract, lung Tritium
trav777's picture

so fucking what?  Radiation causes cancer typically in OLD PEOPLE

tony wilson's picture

hey trav777

thanks fot that i have just cursed you.

bowel cancer incoming and entering you real soon.

let us know when the funeral is i fly over to trample the earth down big fella : )

Vegetius's picture

The great idea of modern Economic Theory -  You NEED to import people to make and do stuff and increase the population, who then need more people to be imported to make and do stuff and increase the population. Really smart thinking, it’s a great pity that this policy has been followed in most Western Countries and that it worked out so well!

And this idea goes to prove that the Economic Elite who think they are so smart cannot understand

1.       Space – that is dimensions or land per person ( take the UK all the food they produce on that island will not even feed the people of London)

2.       Finite – Limited resources , restricted food supplies

So in short they are not the brightest or the best they are Full Retard

Kirk Lazarus - Everybody knows you never go full retard.
Tugg Speedman - What do you mean?
Kirk Lazarus - Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, 'Rain Man,' look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho'. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, 'Forrest Gump.' Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded. Peter Sellers, "Being There." Infantile, yes. Retarded, no. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don't buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, "I Am Sam." Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed...

CTG_Sweden's picture

I don´t get it: Why increase the workforce if they have an unemployment problem. Why?

My impression is rather that the Japanese people need more capital income, not a larger workforce. You got the same problem in Europe and the US. If robots and computers can do jobs that previously required a human workforce the demand for labour shrinks. You don´t need all those people if you got robots and computers.


Gimp's picture

All that spewing radiation is sure going to accelerate the populations demise...shhhh, don't say anything.

donpaulo's picture

not sure where to begin on a proper criticism of this submission. There are a variety of reason for the dip in population not addressed in this article. For those really interested there are better sources of information available via a search engine. Also a similar condition exists in South Korea which I think it is fair to say has little to do with the "unique" Japanese perspective many claim as the source of the problem.

Totentänzerlied's picture

Japan and South Korea may be mortal enemies but that does not mean they are so different from each other.

donpaulo's picture

They are in fact more similar that either is prepared to admit

including the fact that neither of them are having many children

Yen Cross's picture

 It's going to get really interesting in the next week or so, when the import cost pipeline explodes for the Japanese. That nut-job Abe is going to get his ass ass chewed bigtime, as inventories get re-stocked with parabolic price increases.

 Japan imports everything but radioactive fish... Japans citizenism is going to shit it's pants with the yen devaluation, and sales tax increases that are coming. I predict a strong retrace in usd/jpy next week. There is major resistance in the 93.50 area. The runaway train is about to derail if it's speed isn't kept in check...

Room 101's picture

The Japanese should be careful what they wish for. 

Yen Cross's picture

  +1/   Gotta love homogeneous societies.  It's time for those whiney purple haired Japanese"youth" bitchez,  to get too work...<>

dolph9's picture

So I guess Japan needs to import millions of people from Africa and then all of their problems will be solved?