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Japanese Aging Population Problem

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This article will discuss and explore the reasons for Japan’s declining birth rate. Still, Japan is not the only nation in the world heading towards a society where 75% of the population will be over the age of 65. The trends in Japan are happening all over the developed world, with East Asia being the first impacted by a potential population and economic collapse. The courses of Japan’s population problems will be discussed throughout this article.

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The Japanese birth rate has been falling with the Japanese government starting to take serious notice of its declining births in 1989, in an event known as the “1.57 Shock” — the total fertility rate (TFR) that was recorded that year, less even than the 1.58 of 1966, when couples avoided having kids due to superstition over an inauspicious event 1 in the Chinese Zodiac (Grech 2017, Pages 133–135). Since 2008, Japan’s population has been on the decline, and each year the amount it falls grows larger and larger. In 2008, the country lost around 20,000 people. In 2010, 100,000. By 2019, that figure stood at over half a million (Statistical Handbook of Japan, 2021). It is also essential to point out that by 2050, 75% of the Japanese population will be over the age of 65, which will have disastrous consequences for society and the economy of Japan. This aging demographic will be disastrous for the Japanese economy because people aged 65 years will not bail to do manual jobs, and there is not enough office work or work that can be done part-time to enable the elderly to work. Another concern is that the Japanese population is not replacing the rate of people aging out of the workforce. The number of deaths without people working in the economy will lead to lower economic growth. The elderly will not be able to retire. Historically people at best could be expected to live 5 to 10 years after retirement (Esteve, A., Kashyap, R., Garcia Roman, J., Cheng, Y. H. A., Fukuda, S., Nie, W., & Lee, H. O Pages 1367–139). Now with modern healthcare, people could live 40 years past retirement, which means that 40 years of workers are not productive, making them a drain on the economy. For the economy to function, its population must be a majority of working people (Arnold, G. 2011). The overall outcome of this article is to explore the reasons for this population decline, whether it be cultural, corporate, or modern life that will be explored throughout this piece.

One theory for the decline in Japanese fertility rates is the pressures of modern life (Fukuda, S. 2013, Pages 107–128). Average weekly working hours: 46.7 hours for males and 36.3 hours for females. – The average weekly working hours of employed persons was 42.4 hours. These working hours are essential to understanding declining fertility rates because there is a linkage between the rise of prosperity and the decline of fertility rates throughout developed countries. This is due to not having the time for true romance and family when most of the worker’s time is devoted to working efficient and long hours in public or private sectors (Keyfitz, N.1986). Broken down by sex, the figure was 46.7 hours for males and 36.3 hours for females (Nemoto, K. 2012, Pages 512–527). Also, according (K. Gayle, H. Taniguchi, Page 69-87) one significant reason is the traditional gender roles in Japan Tsuya, an economics professor at Keio University in Tokyo, women who work more than 49 hours a week typically do close to 25 hours of housework a week. Their husbands do an average of less than five. This means there is less incentive for a woman to have children due to their workload, which leaves a woman potentially working 60 hours a week, if not more. A way to reverse this problem could be a new understanding of how couples can divide household chores. However, the pressures of modern life cannot be overstated, according to Peter MacDonald’s Theory of Gender Inequality. The main reason for low fertility rates in Japan and developing nations though there are some weaknesses in this theory, is that the Third World countries have high fertility rates. The MacDonald gender theory of inequality advocates that low fertility rates are linked to the pressures placed on women to be the primary caregivers of children and do domestic household work. All these social pressures are leading to low fertility rates. The reason is not just down to the lack of contraception, but other social factors to consider is that with the rise of prosperity in developed nations, fertility rates and birth rates are no longer at replacement levels. To replace aging populations, there needs to be at least a fertility rate of over 2.5. However, this is the placement rate still too low. The population needs to grow above the replacement level to have economic prosperity (Feyrer, J., Sacerdote, B., & Stern, A. D. 2008, Page3–22).

The decline in fertility rate can also be linked to the rise of social media and mental illnesses since the creation of social media and smart mobile phones in the early 21st century (APPG Finds,” 2019). Social media is leading to the decline of the social skill required to form relationships; without interpersonal communication, there can be no relationships which means no sex, which equals no children. The answer to fertility problems can be pretty straightforward, at least partially due to the work of Japanese men and women because there is not enough time for romance and passion. With Japanese women having to work over 55 hours a week with 25 hours dedicated towards household chores, this leaves very little room to raise a family and to have a passionate sex life (McDonald P, Pages 981-994 & Mary C.Briton Pages 405-433).

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The Japanese government has launched three plans to fight against low fertility to encourage men to be more active in raising children (Forste, R., & Fox, K. 2012, Pages 613–631). Males are part of the reason for low fertility because the pressures of child raising are primarily placed on the mother. Simply put, the reason for low fertility in Japan is that men and women are not cooperating in a way that fits the demands of modern society. Modern societies require average that men and average women work full-time work roles are at is at least 35 hours to afford the child-rearing costs. Angel Plan one was launched in 1994 to assist couples in raising children. The program tried to make growing children less stressful by offering to counsel couples and encouraging fathers to take an equal role in childrearing. In December 2004, the government declared the New Angel Plan between 2004 and 2009 (Wiwanitkit, S., & Wiwanitkit, V. 2011). The document emphasized the role of local government and companies in providing childcare support and improving gender equity. The newest government strategy, the Plus One Proposal, is directed toward encouraging families to grow by plus one. The scheme aims to create parent-friendly working conditions, with funds to construct 50,000 new day-care facilities. The reason why these government policies are failing is due to 72% of Japanese women being in full-time work in comparison to France’s 62%. The comparison between France and Japan is relevant because both governments have initiated plans to support the growth of families, with both facing similar demographic problems. France has been far more successful than Japan, with the population expected to be over the age of 65 years old France is expected only to be over 50% (Arnold, G. 2011). Also, 42% of Japanese women are likely to work compared to 23% in France. (Boling P Page 307-326) The Confucius tradition emphasizes women raising a family and doing most of the child raising and home management. This places too much pressure on women being expected to devote their time to childraising and devotion to corporate companies by being good employees. It’s these combinations of social, economic, and corporate pressures by seeing Japanese women put off pregnancy until the end of their childbearing years, from 22 to 44 years old. It is also necessary to highlight that when a woman reaches a study published by the University of St. Andrews and Edinburgh University in Scotland found that women have lost 90 percent of their eggs by the time they are 30 years old, and only have about 3 percent remaining by the time they are 40. ( Fortuna R & Clarke S, For Women 2010) This highlights an incompatibility between pursuing a career and raising a family. The datasets in this article correlate with the argument that the reason for the low birth rate is the pressure on Japanese women to have a career and a family, and the amount of time required to focus on relationships and family is seen from the datasets throughout the developed world why women and men do not have children.

By reading this article, the readers should hopefully come away with a detailed understanding of the social norms of why Japan has such a low fertility rate linked to the gender inequalities and corporate culture that does not give women born in Japan the capacity to raise families. Successive Japanese governments have also repeatedly failed to correct Japan’s declining population due to the struggle between tradition and modernity and the culture of capitalism. This has been covered in the paragraphs above about the conflict between work and family. From reading this article, the reading should come away that there are three causes of Japan’s population declining and aging out at not sustainable levels. The Big three reasons are traditional gender roles in Japan, the commitment of modern living, and work not leaving enough time to raise a family for both men and women in Japan.


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