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Unstoppable depletion of Japan

Japan’s population continued to decline: the population in 2022 was only 124.49 million. This means 556,000 less than the previous year. According to the latest statistics published on Tuesday, this is the 12th year that the population has declined. The data is also worrisome because it includes deaths and births, but it also aggregates emigration and immigration numbers – reported the CNN.

The natural change last year was the largest on record, with a decline of 731,000, dampened by an influx of people arriving in Japan that provided an increase of 175,000, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world and one of the highest life expectancies; according to government data, by 2020, nearly one in every 1,500 people in Japan will be 100 or older.

This means that the number of elderly people is increasing, the labor force is shrinking, and there are not enough young people to replace the lost workers and to generate pensions.

The trend can be seen across the country: all 47 prefectures in Japan, with the exception of Tokyo, reported a decline in population last year, according to data released Wednesday. In a village in central Japan, only one newborn was registered in 25 years – the birth was celebrated as a miracle by the town’s elderly residents.

The situation is so serious that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kisida warned lawmakers in January that the country is “on the verge of not being able to maintain the social welfare system” due to the declining birth rate.

He added that supporting child rearing is the government’s “most important policy” and that solving the problem “simply cannot wait any longer”.

In April, Japan launched its new Child and Family Agency, which focuses on measures to support parents, such as creating more daycare centers and providing youth services such as counseling. Previous similar initiatives, often carried out by local authorities, have so far failed to bring about a turnaround.

The decline in the number of Japanese citizens last year also highlights the government’s deeply conservative views on immigration. According to the Japanese government, foreigners made up only 2.2% of the population in 2021, compared to 13.6% in the United States.

Cover image: Getty Images.