The estimated number of people aged 65 or older in Japan stood at a record high of 36.4 million as of Wednesday, an increase of 220,000 from a year before, the internal affairs ministry said Sunday.
The share of those aged adults in the nation’s total population rose to a record 29.1%, the highest among 201 countries and regions across the world.
Older men totaled 15.83 million, or 26% of the total male population. There were 20.57 million elderly women, or 32% of the female population.
The ministry released the data ahead of Respect for the Aged Day on Monday, a national holiday.
In Japan, the share of aged people has been rising since 1950. The figure is expected to rise to as high as 35.3% in 2040 when the so-called second baby-boomer generation, or people born in the early 1970s, reaches the age of 65 or older, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.
A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.
The strain of longer lives and low fertility, leading to fewer workers and more retirees, threatens to upend how societies are organized — around the notion that a surplus of young people will drive economies and help pay for the old. It may also require a reconceptualization of family and nation. Imagine entire regions where everyone is 70 or older. Imagine governments laying out huge bonuses for immigrants and mothers with lots of children. Imagine a gig economy filled with grandparents and Super Bowl ads promoting procreation.
“A paradigm shift is necessary,” said Frank Swiaczny, a German demographer who was the chief of population trends and analysis for the United Nations until last year. “Countries need to learn to live with and adapt to decline.”
Author(s): Damien Cave, Emma Bubola, Choe Sang-Hun.
Births in China plunged 18% in 2020, though Covid-19 may have played a part, and, if so, fewer newborns might arrive in 2021 as well.
China will remain enormous, but the figures signal a waning of the demographic trends that came to define its modern era, with its huge working-age population spurring 40-plus straight years of economic expansion. A drop in household size, for example, to 2.6 last year from 3.1 a decade earlier, highlights the effects of the birth restrictions since about 1980.
The challenge for China now is its shrinking working-age population versus its growing elderly one, represented by only 12 million annual births, a fractional number for such a populous country.
In the latest census, 63% of Chinese were ages 15 to 59, compared with 70% in 2010, while nearly 19% in 2020 were 60 years old or above, versus 13% a decade earlier.