Aside from the problems brought by natural disasters in March 2011, a nuclear meltdown incident and the continuous struggle to bring the economy up, one battle Japan is sorely losing at is its shrinking population. Last year, the population declined by 238,600 with 1,029,800 births and 1,268,400 deaths, this being the highest on record for the nation, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Births in 2013 fell by 7,400 from the previous year while deaths increased by 12,000. The government is anticipating a continued shrinking of the population if this problem will not be properly addressed in the next few years. As it is, while the fertility rate among Japanese women rose to 1.43 percent in 2013, a 0.02 increase from the previous year, it still remains as one of the lowest among developed nations. Compared to 2008, the country’s population decreased by 800,000 as of October last year and the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research sees a bleaker future, forecasting that the number of Japanese will be below 100 million by 2048 to 86.47 million in 2060. While the fertility rate of the nation recovered for the past two years, a curious trend was seen among women giving birth. Many choose to give birth in their later years, when they are in their 30s while those in their 20s are refusing to have children, according to Takao Komine, a professor at Hosei University. A probable cause would be that those in their earlier years focus on their careers first before starting their families.
A study submitted by an advisory panel recommended that Japan must keep its population at 100 million for the next five years to keep its economy going. To address this, the government is looking at increasing benefits and assistance to parents with young kids such as financial assistance to those with three children and constructing more child care facilities for working mothers in order for families to be encouraged to have more children.
[via Nikkei Asian Review]
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