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Japan’s rapidly declining birthrate places the country in a ‘critical situation’

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Authorities in Japan are sounding the alarm bells over the nation’s rapidly declining birthrate, which has continued to plummet at a record rate throughout 2022.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno promised comprehensive measures to encourage more marriages and births, saying that the nation of 125 million was in a “critical situation”.

Japan’s birthrate has been falling since 1973 after peaking at about 2.1 million births a year.

A total of 599,636 births were born between January and September this year, 4.9 per cent below last year’s figure, with Mr Matsuno warning that 2021’s record low of 811,000 babies would be broken in 2022.

By 2040, the birth rate is projected to fall to just 740,000.

“The pace is even slower than last year … I understand that it is a critical situation,” Mr Matsuno said.

Applying current trends, Japan’s population is estimated to shrink by almost 40 million in the next 40 years, with experts predicting it to drop below 90 million by 2060.

Japan provides payments of subsidies for pregnancy, childbirth and child care, however, the provisions to support new families have not eased the decline.

Additionally, a record low number of young singles in Japan say they plan to get married someday, according to a recent study published in Bloomberg.

Business magnate Elon Musk also commented on Japan’s population issue earlier this year, warning if it wasn’t reversed soon, the nation would eventually “cease to exist”.

“At the risk of stating the obvious, unless something changes to cause the birthrate to exceed the death rate, Japan will eventually cease to exist. This would be a great loss for the world,” the Tesla chief executive said.

According to Tobias Harris, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, “the anxieties surrounding Japan’s demographic future is not that ‘Japan will eventually cease to exist’ but rather the profound social dislocations that are occurring as a result of the decline to a lower population level”.

The situation in Japan came as the world welcomed its eight billionth resident earlier in November. However, experts have deliberated over whether the population clock could begin to reverse once the world peaks at around 10.4 billion.

UN predictions say we will reach this number at around 2080.

Neighbouring nations China and South Korea have also recorded steep birthrate declines, with the latter recording the lowest rates in the world.

Figures released by the South Korean government showed births per woman had dropped to 0.81 — down from 0.84 the previous year.

“At the global level, population decline is driven by low and falling fertility levels,” a 2022 UN report on the state of population growth read.

“In 2019, more than 40 per cent of the world population lived in countries that were at or below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman; in 2021, this share climbed to 60 per cent.”

The UN also indicated that “while the status quo might be comfortable for many, we need to recognise that the notion of a stable population is unrealistic”.

Between July of 2020 and 2021, the US saw a dramatic slowing-down of population growth. Ken Johnson, a senior demographer at the Casey School of Public Policy, says the “perfect storm” has been largely driven by the pandemic.

“Is it a collapse of the number of births? No, I wouldn’t say that,” Johnson said via CNN.

“It’s almost like a perfect storm if you will,” Johnson said. “Births are way down, Covid pushes deaths way up, and then immigration is quite slow, too, so it is no wonder that the population growth rate is so low when you bring all those factors together at the same time.”

Story Credit: news.com.au

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