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Japan's population is shrinking by a quarter of a million people every year

people every year

A man crosses a street in Tokyo August 3, 2009.   REUTERS/Stringer (JAPAN BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - GM1E58J0VUT01
Japan has one of the fastest shrinking populations in the world.
Image: REUTERS/Stringer

How do you stop your country’s population shrinking?
While some obvious suggestions may spring to mind, coming up with policy responses is not often simple. Nowhere is this felt more acutely than in Japan, where the population declined by more than a quarter of a million last year.
That’s the equivalent of three times the amount of people it takes to fill London’s Wembley Stadium in just 52 weeks, and it’s showing no signs of slowing. The total populationwas 126 million in the year to October 2018, a fall of 0.2% compared with a year earlier, and the eighth consecutive drop.
Japan’s demographic challenges are well documents. As well as having one of the fastest-shrinking populations in the world, ageing is a key issue. Taken together, these problems underscore the challenges facing the country’s government and raise questions about the policies that might help, including loosening immigration rules and improving labour-force participation.
While Japan’s prime minister Shinzō Abe has already undertaken some reforms, bodies including the OECD say more are needed.
Japan’s population is shrinking fast.
Japan’s population is shrinking fast.
Image: Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs
While ageing is acutely felt now in Japan, it is set to become a challenge for all countries, both in terms of managing an older population and financing healthcare for them. A World Economic Forum White Paperexplored how it can be an opportunity, if the right policies are in place to retain experienced workers. It highlighted companies that are already embracing older workforces and said lifelong learning and healthy ageing policies will be key.
The number of Japanese people fell by more than 430,000, the Ministry of Internal Affairs data shows, a drop of 0.4%, while the number of foreign nationals grew 8%. The population decreased in 40 of the nation’s 47 prefectures, and dropped by more than 1% in the northern areas of Akita, Aomori and Iwate.
Boosting migration could help alleviate some of the tensions – in 2015, Japan’s migration rate was about 0.5 per thousand, compared with more than 5 per thousand in Australia and Canada, according to the International Monetary Fund.
 Population change by province in Japan.
Population change by province in Japan.
Image: Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs
People aged 65 or older made up 28% of the overall population, a record high, and one fifth are aged 70 or older. There was also a sharp drop in the working-age population – those aged 15 to 64 – underscoring how labour shortages are likely to continue to trouble Japan.
 The country’s population is getting older.
The country’s population is getting older.
Image: Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation predicts 79 of every 100 people will be aged 65 or over by 2050.

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