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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Washington Post is Worried that Japan Will Get Less Crowded

The Washington Post is Worried that Japan Will Get Less Crowded

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Saturday, 09 April 2011 07:52

I'm not kidding. Of course those who know anything about Japan recognize that the country is very densely populated and has high housing prices as a result. (Some of this also stems from a conscious effort to maintain farm land through high subsidies.) Anyhow, the prospect of less crowded cities and lower housing costs probably would not look bad to most Japanese, but it has the Washington Post terrified.

The Post tells us that the money spent on rebuilding from the earthquake and tsunami may pull funds away from programs intended to promote population growth. The article manages to combine both the concern with lack of jobs and lack of population. Japan's economy must be in really bad shape if it is simultaneously suffering from too little demand and too little supply of labor. Read about it only in the Washington Post.

The article also includes this gem:

"Hard-hit coastal towns such as Minamisoma and Rikuzentakata had been shrinking for decades, consolidating schools and struggling to provide adequate jobs for the young people who wanted to remain. The dearth of youth in rural areas will complicate long-term rebuilding efforts, observers say; even if infrastructure is rebuilt, will anybody live there?"

Ummm, I hate to spoil a crisis, but if people don't want to live in the towns destroyed by the disasters, why would anyone want to rebuild them? That doesn't seem very complicated, just common sense.

As a more general rule these shrinking population stories are just plain silly. The impact of even modest rates of productivity growth on increasing wealth per capita swamp the impact of rising dependency ratios in reducing per capita wealth.

When workforces shrink, the less productive jobs go unfilled. This is the way a market economy works. That is why half of our workforce no longer is employed in agriculture. It would be great if the Post would stop bombarding readers about an invented crisis of a less crowded Japan.

Comments (5)Add Comment
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written by PeonInChief, April 09, 2011 1:07
Omigod, no night clerks at the 7/11! How will they survive?
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written by izzatzo, April 09, 2011 4:37
When workforces shrink, the less productive jobs go unfilled. This is the way a market economy works. That is why half of our workforce no longer is employed in agriculture.


Either immigrants or Big Agriculture took the farm jobs and caused the deep recession. Both can't be right. Get the story straight and stop predicting the same thing will happen to Japan. It has the right to be just as dense as the USA.
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written by Robert, April 09, 2011 9:23
Okay, but but why don't liberals ever worry about the US becoming more crowded thanks to the mass immigration that restarted in 1965?
Population Doublethink
written by John, April 11, 2011 7:01
Shorter version of the "gem" you quoted: "There aren't enough jobs because there are too few people." I suppose that there are situations where adding a person creates more than one additional job. But with absolutely no evidence for such a situation, the argument made is flat-out illogical and innumerate.
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written by Colin, April 12, 2011 12:01
That is why half of our workforce no longer is employed in agriculture.


Forgive my ignorance for I am a young one, but please explain this idea to me. If it is obvious or is a joke, so be it, I would rather look dumb now but understand it better.

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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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