Population decline worsening

The population dynamics estimate of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry indicates that Japan’s population decline is accelerating. The report, based on birth and death registers submitted from January 2009 to October 2009, estimates the number of births in Japan in that year at 1,069,000, or 22,000 less than in 2008, and the number of deaths in 2009 at 1,144,000, or 2,000 more than in 2008. The death figure is the highest since 1947 and represents the ninth straight yearly increase.

As a result, Japan’s population is estimated to have shrunk by 75,000 last year, 1.46 times the decrease marked in 2008.

Japan’s population will continue to decrease at an accelerating rate, the ministry noted. The number of women able to bear children is on the decline, and the number of deaths among the nation’s graying population will continue to rise.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research estimates that Japan’s population will dip below 100 million in 2046, below 90 million in 2055 and down to 44.59 million in 2105. If this trend continues, the labor force and consumer markets will shrink, having a strong impact on the economy. Social security costs for medical and nursing care services and pensions will exert great pressure on people. It is time to seriously consider how to stem the population decrease.

The Hatoyama administration will introduce a child allowance without an income cap for eligible households from fiscal 2010. To secure enough funds to maintain the scheme, as well as improve and expand child care facilities, the government should rework the budget, carry out tax reform and have business enterprises contribute funds.

More importantly, the corporate sector should offer the kind of stable employment that allows both men and women to feel they are economically secure enough to be able to raise children. Increasing the number of irregularly employed workers will only weaken the foundation of the economy and the nation itself. Nurturing high-quality, full-time workers in greater numbers is the key to a bright future.