Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Vanishing Japan

Aging Society White Paper, 5/15/10, Cabinet Office of Japan.
                The elderly (65 years and up) are 22.7 percent of the Japanese population as of October 1, 2009, according to the Japanese government's annual report on age demographics. This is an increase of 0.6 percentage points (790,000 people) over last year, and the highest since these surveys began in 1996. The ratio of men to women in this age range is 74.7 percent. By 2055, there will be only 1.3 non-elderly people (15-64 years) to support each person aged 65 and over, compared with 2.8 in 2009. In 2042, even as the total elderly population begins shrinking, the ratio of elderly in the overall population will continue to rise. The second chapter discusses the current situation of policies to address the aging society. Government expenditures in 2009 for related policies grew by 3 trillion yen to 17.1 trillion yen, by far the largest increase since these statistics begin in 1996. The majority of this increase was in employment and income benefits, followed by health and welfare. The final section, on 2010 policies, states that the 2010 budget for these programs is 17.4 trillion yen.

Records of 2009 Suicides, Japan National Police Agency, May 2010, 28 pgs.
                For the 12th consecutive year, the number of suicides in Japan was more than 30,000 last year, increasing 1.8 percent from 2008 to 32,845. Gender distribution was 71.5 percent male and 28.5 percent female. People in their 50s accounted for the largest of any decade, 19.8 percent of the total. “Economic/personal issues” were the reason with the largest increase, up 13.1 percent. The most common reason was “health issues.” A majority of suicide victims (57 percent) was unemployed; hence, the report concludes the number of suicides is partially attributable to the 2008 financial crisis. . The country's suicide rate of 24.4 per 100,000 people ranked the second-highest among the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations after Russia's 30.1, according to the World Health Organization.

Very Low Fertility in Asia: Is There a Problem? Can It Be Solved? by Sidney B. Westley, Minja Kim Choe, and Robert D. Retherford. AsiaPacific Issues, No. 94. Honolulu: East-West Center, May 2010, 12 pgs.
….four of Asia's most prosperous economies--Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan--have among the lowest birth rates in the world. With women having, on average, only one child each, these societies have expanding elderly populations and a shrinking workforce to pay for social services and drive economic growth. And in Japan, overall population numbers are already going down. Why are women choosing to have so few children? How are policymakers responding to these trends? Government leaders have initiated a variety of policies and programs designed to encourage marriage and childbearing, but to what effect? Given current social and economic trends, it is unlikely that Asia's steep fertility decline will be reversed, at least not in the foreseeable future.

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