Monday, May 14, 2012

"Japan faces 'extinction' in 1,000 years, researchers say"

Image borrowed from "Japan's Children Population Clock."

Story from Japan Today, 5/12/12:

Japanese researchers on Friday unveiled a population clock that showed the nation’s people could theoretically become extinct in 1,000 years because of declining birth rates.

Academics in Sendai said that Japan’s population of children aged up to 14, which now stands at 16.6 million, is shrinking at the rate of one every 100 seconds.

Their extrapolations pointed to a Japan with no children left within a millennium.

“If the rate of decline continues, we will be able to celebrate the Children’s Day public holiday on May 5, 3011 as there will be one child,” said Hiroshi Yoshida, an economics professor at Tohoku University.

“But 100 seconds later there will be no children left,” he said. “The overall trend is towards extinction, which started in 1975 when Japan’s fertility rate fell below two.”

Yoshida said he created the population clock to encourage “urgent” discussion of the issue.

Another study released earlier this year showed Japan’s population is expected to shrink to a third of its current 127.7 million over the next century.

Government projections show the birth rate will hit just 1.35 children per woman within 50 years, well below the replacement rate.

Meanwhile, life expectancy—already one of the highest in the world—is expected to rise from 86.39 years in 2010 to 90.93 years in 2060 for women and from 79.64 years to 84.19 years for men.

More than 20 percent of Japan’s people are aged 65 or over, one of the highest proportions of elderly in the world.

Japan has very little immigration and any suggestion of opening the borders to young workers who could help plug the population gap provokes strong reactions among the public.

The greying population is a headache for policymakers who are faced with trying to ensure an ever-dwindling pool of workers can pay for a growing number of pensioners.

But for some Japanese companies the inverting of the traditional aging pyramid provides commercial opportunities.

Unicharm said Friday that sales of its adult diapers had “slightly surpassed” those for babies in the financial year to March, for the first time since the company moved into the seniors market.

Unicharm started selling diapers for babies in 1981 and those for adults in 1987, said spokesman Kazuya Kondo, who declined to give specific figures on the sales. 


Link to Japan's Children Population Clock:

The first set of boxes shows the decrease in the number of young children (ages 0-14) between last year and this year, a decrease of 280,000 children.

The second set of boxes shows the actual number of children as it decreases every second.

The last set of boxes is the countdown calendar, the amount of time left before there is only one child left in Japan.

I have been using an article from The Daily Yomiuri (Dec. 6, 2004) entitled "Japan heading for extinction / Data in white paper on birthrate make depressing reading" as the introduction to my Contemporary Japanese Society and Culture class for some time, advising my students that they got to Japan just in time. Many paranoid articles about the declining birthrate/aging society soon followed and fit nicely with my course intro. Add some natural disasters, hikikomori, suicides, increasing HIV/AIDS rates, the dangers of nuclear power and other social problems and you have a convincing argument. Now I am happy to have this contemporary source to add as well (sorry to give away my secrets to any possible future students...).

Of course, a lot can happen in a thousand years...

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