Japan’s Slow-Motion Demographic Catastrophe

From the Washington Post, on Japan’s self extinction:

“Japan celebrated a national holiday on Monday in honor of its children. But Children’s Day might just as easily have been a national day of mourning.

“For this is the land of disappearing children and a slow-motion demographic catastrophe that is without precedent in the developed world.

“The number of children has declined for 27 consecutive years, a government report said over the weekend. Japan now has fewer children who are 14 or younger than at any time since 1908.

“The proportion of children in the population fell to an all-time low of 13.5 percent. That number has been falling for 34 straight years and is the lowest among 31 major countries, according to the report. In the United States, children account for about 20 percent of the population.

“Japan also has a surfeit of the elderly. About 22 percent of the population is 65 or older, the highest proportion in the world. And that number is on the rise. By 2020, the elderly will outnumber children by nearly 3 to 1, the government report predicted. By 2040, they will outnumber them by nearly 4 to 1.

“The economic and social consequences of these trends are difficult to overstate.

“Japan, now the world’s second-largest economy, will lose 70 percent of its workforce by 2050 and economic growth will slow to zero, according to a report this year by the nonprofit Japan Center for Economic Research.

“Population shrinkage began three years ago and is gathering pace. Within 50 years, the population, now 127 million, will fall by a third, the government projects. Within a century, two-thirds of the population will be gone.

“In what is now being called a “super-aging” society, department and grocery stores have recorded declining sales for a decade…”

Bill Bonner
Markets and Money

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America’s most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind Markets and Money.
Bill Bonner

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8 Comments on "Japan’s Slow-Motion Demographic Catastrophe"

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William Williams

I’ve noticed that mixed marriages in Japan tend to have more children. Perhaps Japan should import spouses, not just workers.


Hate to be rash, but it’s their own fault. There’s hundreds of millions of people all over the world that would kill for a chance to live in Japan instead of being impoverished in the third world countries, but Japan’s culture of national protectionism prohibits nearly all immigration.


I agree with John. Having lived there for over 9 years, I know they are not the quickest when it comes to change, but, I believe that Japan can and will change their immigration laws to deal with these issues.


With our global food shortages, increasing world population, peak in oil supply, massive pollition and climate change looming, the most sensible thing a nation can do is decrease their population growth rate. There obviously will be some economic pain, but ultimately these problems need to be addressed to possibly survive as a species! The economy is a means to support us, and not a means in itself!


Every nation on the planet should follow Japans lead and let populations plummet, 6.5bn people on this planet is FAR to many. We have the world at a level of unsustainability and are beginning to feel the wrath of Mother nature already.

100s of millions will starve going forward as the Oil age is recognised as producing a population bubble.

Good work Japan, lead by example.


It may be good, it may be bad….it will probably be a combination of both.

But – firstly, if there is an overpopulation problem in Japan, they are resolving the issue themselves accidently or otherwise.

And they have come to this conclusion themselves without interference.

So why not back off and see what happens – it’s their choice if people are reproducing.

I agree they will seek to change their immigration policy as part of their strategy. What is interesting about Japan is the lack of consumer spending. The baby boomers are seeking to hold onto their cash reserves at all cost. Teenage girls are a different story! The changing demographics means that employees are becoming more and more accepting of older female employees. History had it difficult to get a job after 30, but with this shift it is now becoming more and more common. It is also not unheard of for 3 generations of family to be living in the… Read more »

1) Japan is worried about where its resources and supplies will come from. It is going to have to decrease its population in a resource scarce world… so that is all well and good.

2) What is wrong with economic growth being zero. When there are half the people they will each have twice the space to live in although they earn the same GDP. And if you have lived there you will know that most Japanese would probably accept the tradeoff.

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