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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Is Japan's Aging Population Really Going to Shrink Into Oblivion?

Is Japan's Aging Population Really Going to Shrink Into Oblivion?

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Tuesday, 02 September 2014 05:39

That's what a Reuters story on the NYT website said Japanese leaders are troubled by. The piece told readers:

"Policymakers are also pledging to draft a vision of how to keep Japan's ageing population from shrinking into oblivion, holding the line at 100 million in 2060, a 20 percent drop from now."

And what bad thing happens if Japan continues to become a less crowded island through the rest of the century and beyond, more room at the beach and less pollution? 

Comments (6)Add Comment
...
written by Last Mover, September 02, 2014 7:17

Exactly. As The Onion once observed despite all attempts to avoid it, the probability of death holds steady at 100% for everyone.

If the flip floppy media wants to maintain a shred of dignity on the consistency of its reporting, the next time it starts fanning the flames of intergenerational warfare between young and old in America by painting the old as a liability, it should point out that the old should migrate to Japan and make both countries better off.
Common sense corollary
written by Michael, September 02, 2014 8:10
If we in American want to be less crowded through the rest of the century and beyond, with more room at the beach and less pollution, maybe we could reduce immigration.
...
written by Bloix, September 02, 2014 10:04
In 1900, Japan's population was about 45 million. In 1950 it was 83 million. It hit 100 million in 1967 and in 2000, it was 127 million.

Suppose the population falls to 108 million in 2050 - will Japan be under-populated? Was it under-populated in 1967?

It's true that there will be a decades-long bulge of the elderly as the population drops. If the Japanese perceive this to be a problem they can solve it easily by relaxing their anti-immigration policies somewhat.
economic value
written by BenBen7, September 02, 2014 11:09
I think that if countries calculated the economic value of the elderly in terms of childcare for grandchildren, volunteering, helping out their kids, etc. they may be less worried about an aging population.
Maybe the author is being literal
written by David M, September 02, 2014 12:57
...or literary.
There's a Kurt Vonnegut novel where the Chinese develop miniaturization technology and end up shrinking the entire population down to microscopic levels, causing a worldwide plague among full-size people who inhale them.
But we all know Japanese pop culture loves miniature versions of things. Seems like they're the more likely candidates for shrinking to oblivion.
One reason for concern
written by Ross Boylan, September 02, 2014 9:56
If the economy is growing quickly in total size (not per capita) there is likely to be more investment, e.g. in more efficient production processes, buildings, and cars. This could boost overall efficiency relative to the slow growth scenario.

I think this is one of Larry Summer's arguments (http://www.voxeu.org/content/s...-and-cures), though it's only an approximation. It seems plausible, though not likely to be decisive.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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