Japan’s Declining Population

A declining and aging population for the future of Japan (chart courtesy of CNN)

The passing of a bill increasing blue-collar immigration by the Japanese government has been in the news recently. There is a labor shortage due to the aging population and a decrease in young people entering the workforce. CNN’s article, “Japan needs immigrants, but do immigrants need Japan” really captures the challenges of a declining population. 

In one way, I think it is great. The islands of Japan are roughly the same size as the state of California, but with 126 million people compared to the 40 million Californians, I would say it is crowded here. With great public transport, smaller housing/denser housing and a high rate of urban living, it is a pleasant place to live and you don’t feel the population density. However, growing up in rural northern Michigan, fewer people here would be a good thing in my opinion. More room for wilderness! 

If you look at the chart above, without immigration and a continued low birth rate, Japan’s population will drop to around 50 million by the end of the century. More importantly, the percentage of elderly will rise to almost half of the total population. Japanese people have some of the longest life spans of anyone on earth and with laws requiring mandatory retirement around 60-65, most people have 20 to 30 years of living on a pension. With many less workers paying into the pension system, the government will be running up a huge debt. 

Japan has one of the lowest rates of immigration in the world. Only about 2% of the population are foreign residents. Other aging countries like Germany and Singapore are actively recruiting young people to move to their countries. The lack of English and long work hours discourage people from settling here long term. 

For international schools, increased immigration, especially temporary residency, would be a good thing as perhaps there would be a need for families seeking an education in English. 

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Japan. It is a preview of what is coming for other countries including the USA. 

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