Thursday, March 15, 2012

Japan, the "Land of the Setting Sun"

Why? Because of the demographics.

From the article on March 13, 2012 by Patrick J. Buchanan:

Land of the setting sun

Sunday was the first anniversary of the 9.0 earthquake off the east coast of Japan that produced the 45-foot-high tidal wave that hit Fukushima Prefecture.

Twenty thousand perished. Hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes when a nuclear plant swept by the tsunami exploded, spewing radiation for miles.

Only two of Japan's 54 nuclear plants are now operating. The rest have shut down for inspections. Many may never start up again.

In loss of life, that earthquake-tsunami was seven times as lethal as 9/11. But recovery from that greatest disaster in decades is not the gravest problem facing Japan.

The gravest problem facing the Land of the Rising Sun is that it is dying. The sun that set on the Japanese Empire in 1945 has begun to set on the Japanese nation.

A week before the anniversary of 3/11, buried in a story about Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's effort to rally support for a doubling of the 5 percent consumption tax, to preserve Japan's social security system, was this startling statement:

"We're faced with an aging society and a declining birth rate unprecedented in the history of mankind."

What makes this admission remarkable is that the Japanese are not given to hyperbole, and the prime minister's statement is rooted in numbers that may fairly be called a demography of death.

Deep inside the story on the Noda tax proposal was this item: "By 2055, according to government data, 40 percent of the country's population will be 65 or older. Just 8 percent will be younger than 15."

If accurate, these numbers reveal a deepening of the crisis of demography facing Japan since the population projections of the United Nations came out in 2008.

According to those U.N. figures, where Japan's population would reach 127 million in 2010, the number of Japanese will shrink to just above 101 million by 2050. Every year between now and 2050, the number of deaths over births in Japan will average two-thirds of a million, with the population shrinkage accelerating each decade.

The median age of a Japanese, 22 years old in 1950, reached 45 in 2010 and will exceed 55 by midcentury. The oldest people on the planet are getting older.

What kind of future can there be for a nation, even one with the high quality human capital of Japan, when there are two Japanese 65 years old or older for every Japanese 24 years of age or younger?

When Japan became the world's No. 2 economy in 1960, seizing the crown from Germany to hold for 40 years, Japanese 24 years old and younger outnumbered the population 65 or older eight to one.

Japan's fertility rate, the number of births per woman, has been below zero population growth for 40 years and has plunged to where Japanese woman are having only two-thirds of the children needed to replace the present population.

Not only has the birth rate per woman fallen, the percentage of Japanese women aged 15-49 -- 56 percent in the 1960s -- is expected to plunge to 31 by midcentury.

Every new Japanese generation is one-third to one-half smaller than the one that came before. Japan's high school graduation class has fallen by more than one-third in just 30 years.

Nippon seems to be collectively committing national hara-kiri.

How did this come about? The means are not in dispute.

When millions of Japanese soldiers returned from their dead empire to start families, there was a population explosion. Under the U.S. occupation, Tokyo swiftly legalized abortion, and the nation embraced birth control. Japan did so before Europe, but Europe followed. Now all face demographic death, with Japan leading the way.

This has already begun to affect her national economy.

Japan's growth rate in the 1960s was 10 percent a year. In the 1970s, it was 5 percent a year. In the 1980s, it was 4 percent -- still a healthy growth rate for a mature economy.

But in the 1990s, the "lost decade," Japan's growth fell to 1.8 percent a year, and that anemic rate has continued into this century.

Japan's expenditures during the lost decade to reignite the fire sent the national debt soaring above 200 percent of gross domestic product, eclipsing the debt-to-GDP ratios of Greece and Italy today.

In 2011, for the first time in 30 years, Japan ran a trade deficit. January's figure, $19 billion for the month, was a record.

The abandonment of nuclear power has forced Japan to substitute imported coal and liquified natural gas to produce her energy.

During the decade of "Japan, Inc.," in 1988, Nippon boasted of being home to eight of the world's top 20 corporations in terms of capital investment. Now she is home to none, and only six of the top 100.

Yet when Prime Minister Noda said what was happening in Japan was "unprecedented in the history of mankind," he was mistaken.

This also happened to the greatest empire of them all long ago.

NHK reports that the average size of a household in Tokyo has dipped below 2. A "household" doesn't even consist of two people any more in Tokyo.


Anonymous said...

They should treasure their young people and children.

Instead, this...

Selfish f*cking bastards. Apres nous, le deluge...almost literally so.


William Milberry said...

In my prefecture in the past several years, several of the prefecture high schools have downsized. On school near my home went from 7 classes of 40 students (standard size) per grade down to 6. Another went from 5 classes per grade to 4 a few years ago, and another school which currently has 8 classes per grade used to have 10 a decade or two ago.

If a school reduces by one class (40 students), after 3 years (Japanese high school is 10, 11, 12th grades), the school will have reduced by 120 students as students graduate each year.

What does all of this mean? It's a clear indication of the declining population, or at least the declining youth (there are still plenty of old people around which has prevented the population total from plummeting that much yet but that will change in the coming years.)

Unrelated note - my coverage of the 3/11 anti-nuclear protest in Fukuoka City:

Anonymous said...

and the Japanese that are young, will have to pay and care for elderly pension and health care. They will have no future and no present.
Will have to work even harder than the Japanese are today. Japanese are being made to work so much that can't have children anymore. They will be even less capable to do so in the "future". Japan is led by evil and deamons.

Arnie Gundersen said...

Population control is an effective way to maintain natural resources.

Anonymous said...

Lack of greed and respect for nature is an even more effective way.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 6:14 - "Japanese are being made to work so much that can't have children anymore."

That is so true. I know QUITE a number of seemingly eligible Japanese people who are in their mid to late 30's and haven't married or haven't children, and don't seem to have any prospects for it, in large part because they work 6 days a week from 8am until 8pm or so.

Also, if you are a Japanese woman and get married, if you don't have a "permanent" job position (of which there are few these days), you'll often NOT have your work contract renewed out of fear/expectation that you'll have a child and stop working. So marital status and a lack of options for mothers to work is killing the desire to have families too.

I haven't confirmed, but I've also read that in most cases Japanese health insurance doesn't cover checkups during pregnancy or costs related to giving birth because "it's not an illness", thus making having a child too costly for many couples...

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

People working from 8 to 8 every day even on Sunday, that's nothing new. Many "salarymen" and career bureaucrats have been like that since the 1960s. For long time, people still got married and had children.

Up until 1990s or so, if there were unmarried men or women, people around them would arrange them to meet the marriage prospects that they had already screened for them. That went out the door, as "old-fashioned", as the concept of "marry for love" took the supreme status.

Well there was nothing wrong with being "old-fashioned". Now people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s are scrambling to find someone to marry, using all kinds of dating and match-making services, many of them having long passed the optimum child bearing age.

Anonymous said...


Yes, pregnancy and giving birth is considered not an illness. Unless you have a special insurance you will have to cover all costs. Upon birth, you will receive a kind of 'giving birth money' from the government which will cover more or less halve of the costs until that time.

Health care for kids will be usually covered by the state until about the age of 6 (entering school). After entering school, it depends on the local city councils policy whether healthcare for kids will be free or whether you will have to cover 30% of the costs yourself (I do not know how things are handled if parents do not have a health insurance).

Just another brick in the wall causing the low birthrate of Japan

Anonymous said...

Long working hours, 6 days a week work schedule, gender-baised low salary / unfair promotion / workplace discrimination, sexual harrassment, no enforcement of labor laws including mandatory holidays that are commonly ignored...

Add to this, refusal to admit the gravity of Fukushima accident, refusal to protect babies, children, and women from radioactive exposure, refusal to employ internationally recognized scientific approach rather than saving their own face, refusal to contain contamination rather than spreading, refusal to permanently evacuate children and families to clean areas, refusal to value the life of the future generation ...

And the prime minister and government officials are worried and do not understand why Japanese women no longer want to get married and raise families?

We are not that stupid!

Anonymous said...

Which was " the greatest empire of them all"?

Paige Dawson said...

One also has to consider the consumption rate of Japan and other countries that have declining birthrates. Once societies start valuing material possessions more than family, the birthrate naturally declines: people can't afford to have children and buy everything that their hearts desire, and in a way, that's good because if they were having many children and passing on this highly consumptive lifestyle, the environmental situation would be more dire than it already is. Many people I know that have kids live more simply and more cheaply (whether by conscious choice or by economic necessity). If people choose to live more simply and cheaply, they might not have to work so much or perhaps one spouse can stay home to care for the children. It's all about choice. Unfortunately for women, if we don't know this before our ability to have children is gone, it is difficult to start a family in Japan (where adoption is looked down upon).

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

>Which was " the greatest empire of them all"?

One Ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

In the land of Mordor, where the shadows lie...

(Sorry. "them all" phrase triggered my memory.)

Shadowfax said...

Japan is only supporting the population it has now by massive fossil fuel consumption.They are eating oil like all industrialized nations.
When the decline starts in earnest ...think if Japan had to feed/keep warm it's population with no fossil fuels..How many millions would starve??

Anonymous said...

People working from 8 to 8 every day even on Sunday, that's nothing new. Many "salarymen" and career bureaucrats have been like that since the 1960s.

But that was mainly men. Now a large section of the female population does the same, without a corresponding re-distribution of household and child-rearing chores. Why would any woman want to get married in Japan unless the man was rich enough to support both of them?

If Japan wants to stabilize or increase its population (we'll leave aside the discussion of the merits of doing either) then it needs to 1) end the culture of over-work,* 2) provide strong guarantees that women won't be discriminated against for getting married, 3) provide generous maternity leave for both sexes, and 4) include childbirth as a mandatory part of any health insurance policy.

I'm pretty sure Japan won't do any of those in the next decade, so Japan's population will continue to decline.

* Research in the US shows that American employees, at least, are at their most productive when they work about 40 hours per week. The gains from overtime basically disappear after 2-3 weeks of extra hours because people become less productive per hour as time goes on when they are overworked.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Large segment of the female population worked like that, whether as mothers at home or as workers in a company.

Difference now is that there is no job security any more, thanks to Koizumi's so-called "structural reform" after he listened to all those MBAs. Not only women but men whose employment was pretty much "for life" and secure before, now have to struggle, as more and more jobs are shifted to contract or temporary jobs with lower pay and no benefits. Hardly any incentives for young people to get married and have children.

I worked in a traditional Japanese company. I don't know what you mean by discrimination, but if you mean women being harassed into leaving the job once they get married, I didn't see any such case. If you mean salary, it simply depended on the type of work they did. I don't know about now. Maybe it's gotten worse.

Anonymous said...

Seems like neither the herbivorous nor the carnivorous are very prone to make babies...

Anonymous said...

I addition Japan has reached 200% debt to GDP. With the radiation threat people will have even less babies, I predict a long and steady decline of the Japanese economy and society. Which actualy started already in the 1990ies.Dont get me started on the neoliberal employment policies bullshit they have started to do. You should think that young people should get better jobs in Japan, because there aren't many of them, this does not seem to be the case, they are even working at Fuku Daichi for 100 Dollars a day.

Anonymous said...

In 50 years, Japan's population will still be larger than Germany's, France's, or the UK's. It will be larger than Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Australia, combined. If you wish to concentrate solely on youth, the population of young people in Japan in 2050 will be larger than the entire population of California. A rapidly decline rate of population still leaves Japan with over a 100 million people for many years. Immigration is the key to finding a solution to Japan's demographic woes, but it is a political and emotional third rail they they are not yet interested in touching. However, like it or not, they will need to open up, in many ways, to immigrants. And make no mistake, the economic situation of the country will force them to do this.

Anonymous said...

@anon at 6:28PM, you are wrong. The Japanese would rather perish than to accept immigrants who don't share their values.

Anonymous said...

@anon at 7:18
I think you'd be surprised about how much I know about the Japanese...

Anonymous said...

@anon at 1:06AM, I think you'd be surprised about how much I know about the Japanese...

Anonymous said...

You win, the Japanese will perish. (rolls eyes).

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