Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Japan's Declining Population Problem

 Japan’s declining population is projected to drop to about 87 million by 2060 from the current 127 million. The Committee for Japan's Future has predicted that Japan's working population will tumble from more than 77 million today to 55 million by 2060, even if the retirement age is lifted to 70. The number of Japanese without a job has fallen to a level not seen in over two decades.

Experts also predict that when the elderly population accounts for fully 40 percent of the total population - which will contract from 125 million in 2020 to 107 million in 2050 - Japan will experience economic problems associated with a shrinking tax base and a growing elderly sector requiring pensions and healthcare. The obvious answer, according to Hidenori Sakanaka, director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, is permitting large-scale immigration.
"Prior to 1990, few foreigners were accepted to come and live in Japan because we already had an enormous population," he told DW. "At that time it was the same as the populations of Britain and France together. So there was no need to bring people to Japan to work. From the 1950s in Europe, France and Germany had 'guest workers,' but if some localized areas in Japan had a shortage of labor, then the government was able to move people to that area from other parts of the country or introduce women to the workforce. But with the arrival of the 'bubble years,' we suddenly had a shortfall in workers and the rules were relaxed for skilled immigrants," Sakanaka said. http://www.dw.com/en/japanese-people-wary-of-refugees-foreign-workers/a-36005275

He points out that while one in every 10 people in countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom are originally from another country, foreigners only account for 1.74 percent of the total population of Japan. There is also a reluctance to provide shelter to refugees and asylum seekers extends to the authorities, with just 27 people granted asylum in 2015, of the 7,500 who applied. In the 22 years up to 2004, an average of 15 people were granted asylum per year. And whereas the percentage of people who are granted asylum in Germany and Canada comes to around 30 percent, the figure averages 0.2 percent in Japan.

According to the ministry of agriculture, 1.92 million people are employed in the agriculture sector, a decline of 8.3 percent and down 40 percent from the figure as recently as 1990.

A scheme for foreign technical trainees in the agriculture sector was introduced in 1993, but it has been widely criticized as providing little more than slave labor for farming companies. Rules on nursing workers will be relaxed in certain parts of the country to permit more care sector employees from overseas to work in Japan. The jobs, however, will not provide guarantees of residency, and those who take part will be required to return to their home countries once their contracts have been completed.

"The government apparently sees this as a stop-gap solution for a period of several decades, until Japan's population situation stabilizes in a positive manner," Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, said. "But that assumes that the nation's birth rate is going to climb again. I don't think we can assume that."

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