The Japanese society is witnessing an unusual development – a shrinking young population – as the estimated number of people over the age of 65, as of last week, reached nearly an outstanding 34 million, a quarter of Japan’s population. On the other hand, the number of people above the age of 80 had reached 10 million, making Japan the country with the fastest ageing population in the world.
The country with an ageing population, caused by low fertility and longer life expectancy rates, brings along its own set of economic and social challenges. The country has to meet higher social security expenses by setting higher taxes, causing greater financial burden on the working population. Owing to the advances in healthcare, the ageing population becomes more capable of fighting severe illnesses and diseases that increase longer life expectancy rates. Low fertility, on the other hand, is greatly determined by the perception of having children.
One woman, on the streets of Tokyo, remarked that young women are refraining from having children for the country to keep moving ahead. The net effect of having a higher life expectancy and lower fertility results in a shrinking population is met with a growing ageing population.
According to experts, the estimated number of people over the age of 65 could go as high as two-fifths of the Japanese population in the next 25 years. These alarming developments has pushed the Japanese government to start an agency encouraging people to have more children a decade ago to overcome negative perceptions of reproducing in Japan. However, Ryuichi Kaneko, Japan’s National Institute of Populations’ head statistician, revealed that the problem is far deeper.
His study into low fertility rates revealed that more than a fifth of Japanese men claimed to be too tired after work, and a similar number of women viewed sex as irritating. Many are not even dating let alone marrying at a very late point in their lives. A report from the Pew Research Center states that for every 72 elderly in Japan, there will be 100 working adults. However, even though Japan may lead with the “fasting ageing population” problem, it is also a fear in countries such as France, Sweden, and United States. There is less to worry about the situation in United States; the growth rate of the ageing population is much slower than in other countries. That being said, the US government will inevitably face a high burden of meeting social security costs.
In order to overcome these challenges, these countries will have to come up with significant economic and social policy. The global population of people over the age of 60 exceeds 900 million, which is approximately 12 percent of the world’s population according to HelpAge International’s Global AgeWatch Index Report. What is more worrying is that if all things remain unchanged, the expected population of the over-60 year olds could hit 11.2 billion people by year 2100.
John Wilmoth, the United Nations Population Division director says that “The aging of the human population is a sign of success. People live to much older ages, and the population is maintaining itself at a much lower mortality and fertility than we’ve experienced historically.”