This is a companion piece to my earlier post, “Japan admits ‘We are worse than Greece’,” and is a response to Ed Haskell’s comment about Japan’s debt and fiscal woes being exacerbated by the country’s demographics.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about Japan’s demographics:
Japan has the longest overall life expectancy at birth of any country in the world: 83.5 years for persons born in the period 2010–2015. The Japanese population is rapidly aging as a result of a post–World War II baby boom followed by a decrease in birth rates. In 2009, about 22.7 percent of the population was over 65, by 2050 almost 40 percent of the population will be aged 65 and over, as projected in December 2006. The changes in demographic structure have created a number of social issues, particularly a potential decline in workforce population and increase in the cost of social security benefits like the public pension plan. A growing number of younger Japanese are preferring not to marry or have families. In 2011, Japan’s population dropped for a fifth year, falling by 204,000 people to 126.24 million people. This is the greatest decline since at least 1947, the first year for which government data is available. The 1.26 million deaths included 15,844 people killed and 3,451 left missing by the tsunami.
Japan’s population is expected to drop to 95 million by 2050, demographers and government planners are currently in a heated debate over how to cope with this problem. Immigration and birth incentives are sometimes suggested as a solution to provide younger workers to support the nation’s aging population. Japan accepts a steady flow of 15,000 new Japanese citizens by naturalization (帰化) per year. According to the UNHCR, in 2007 Japan accepted just 41 refugees for resettlement, while the US took in 50,000.
Japan suffers from a high suicide rate. In 2009, the number of suicides exceeded 30,000 for the twelfth straight year. Suicide is the leading cause of death for people under 30.
Recently collected data on Japanese young people make the above demographics even more dismal.
The Daily Mail reports Nov. 28, 2011, that increasing numbers of young Japanese are asexual:
Japan is in danger of heading for extinction after researchers found that more and more of the country’s young people are shunning the idea of marriage and having children.
One in four unmarried men and women in their 30s say they have never had sex, and the majority of young women prefer the single life.
A record 61.4% of unmarried Japanese men aged between 18 and 34 have no girlfriend, up 9.2 percentage points from 2005, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Japan said.
The percentage of unmarried women with no boyfriend in the same age group also hit a record high of 49.5%, up 4.8 points, while nearly half the respondents of both genders said they do not want to date anyone.
Asked why they remain unmarried, 13.5% of men and 11.6% of women aged between 25 and 34 said they do not know how to be in a relationship, and 11.9% of men and 7% of women aged between 18 and 24 gave the same answer, the institute said.Meanwhile, most respondents said they are willing to get married, with 86.3% of men and 89.4% of women answering they want to get married at some stage.The study also revealed that more than 25% of both unmarried men and women in their late 30s have never had sex.
An astounding 90% of unmarried young Japanese women said the single life suits them better than marriage.
Ryuichi Kaneko, a researcher at the institute, told the Japan Times that many people may be giving up on relationships or marriage because they are busy with work or do not have the financial means to wed.
The survey is conducted by the Tokyo-based think-tank every five years to grasp singles’ attitudes toward marriage and relationships. The latest survey, the seventh of its kind, was conducted in June last year, and analysed answers from about 7,000 people among some 10,000 respondents.
Since Japan traditionally and culturally is ill-disposed toward welcoming immigrants or refugees, it is unlikely that its problem of low birth rate and aging work force will be alleviated any time soon.
A country where its young people increasingly eschew not just marriage but sex altogether speaks to something fundamentally off kilter and dysfunctional. Simply put, a nation that isn’t replacing its population through new births is a nation that is slowly committing seppuku.