Unprecedented: Japan's population has declined by 1 million in 5 years

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/02/06/unprecedented-japans-popula.html

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Article from last year cites sources from 2010, 2011.

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That’s pretty common though, since census’s (censes?) take awhile to tally, so studies tend to use older data. I doubt the trend is on the decrease. :slight_smile:


Not quite. Countries with extraordinarily low birthrates, like Japan, tend to be places with universal healthcare and universal women’s education and widespread consumption of media (the basic ingredients for defusing the population bomb), but also rampant institutionalized sexism.

Single women in Japan are allowed to have careers, but the minute they get married, they are supposed to become full time homemakers. Unsurprisingly, they have responded by declining to become married at all, resulting in birthrates far below replacement levels and a “childless society”. The birthrates per woman in Spain and Greece (both around 1.3 children per woman, and neither being well known for their feminism) are well below Japan’s (1.4), it’s just that they haven’t slammed the door on immigration to boot.

Countries like Sweden, that have institutionalized basic feminist concepts like daycare and acceptance of women who combine motherhood and career, on the other hand, have seen their birthrates stabilize at significantly higher levels (1.9).


I doubt it too. I think Japan is well aware of the problem, and already has a technological solution.


The expectation is that when you get married the man turns into an overworked and unappreciated cash/mortgage machine and the woman jettisons whatever professional skills and dreams she had and becomes a babymaker and housekeeper. And the dating scene is really vicious, because the women who /are/ going for the married life thing are looking for the big score. Unsurprisingly a lot of people are opting out of this on both sides.

And then, yes, they’d rather replace ‘missing’ people with robots than filthy foreigners who might dilute the culture too much. They tolerate the occasional Very Foreign Westerner like me, but can’t stomach the large numbers of poor asians they’d get. They’re already plenty squeamish about how many Koreans they already have.


… I dont think the issue in Spain has anything to do with lack feminism as in “married woman==hausfrau”. Not that we arent in need of less machismo and all that, but I dont see much of that mentality around anymore.

Right now the mayor player is the fact that a married heterosexual couple needs both of them working to kinda have the money to pay for a flat and not much else. The cost of also having a child puts that into a decision to be left for when we have more money and then maybe one. And then many find out that hey, too late. Unsurprisingly, a young couple with salaries like 500-700 € per working member is not really going to think having a kid is a sustainable idea, specially when it is highly probable that one of the will get fired soon

Of course the part where lack of feminism and attitudes may play a bigger role is in two things, one, not having affordable daycare or help to get it (the whole austerity craziness doesnt help), and two, the fact that “she is a woman so if she gets pregnant there we go for months, dont hire her” is still prevalent in many companies :confused:


And before anybody says anything - heterosexual couple is just to consider people with easy (if not having fertiility problems) means to produce a new generation of babies, without having to deal with other problems related to our still embarassing laws and institutions.


Bringing in foreigners to take care of the elderly just moves or delays the problem. Either those people have to get kicked out of Japan when they get older, or they will need caretakers. This means bringing in yet another round of caretakers. It isn’t about cultural issues, it’s about the need to have a permanently rising population.

Whether Japan lets in more foreigners or just raises its own birth rate, in theory, this process can go on forever. Eventually Japan will either have to forgo care of the elderly or have a population in the billions. That’s just simple math.

The alternative is to make taking care of the elderly less labor intensive. Reducing labor requirements has been done in other domains, in manufacturing and agriculture, for example. If robots can increase the efficiency of home health aides, it could be possible to have a more or less stable population with a high standard of living.

If Japan was losing millions of younger people, I’d be worried, but most of those dying are old people and they are not dying at earlier and earlier ages. If the Japanese are comfortable with their population level, there is no problem. They aren’t going to zero for a good long while. If they were seriously worried, they could adopt French policies to encourage having children.

P.S. I’m not going to consider the Logan’s Run approach which might solve the problem, but introduces problems of its own.


Sorry if I painted things with too broad a brush. There’s all kinds of reasons why people decide not to have kids, from economic ones like you cite, to thinking that the current regime is not a good one to bring a child into, to issues of feminism.

All other factors being equal, countries that treat their women like people are going to have higher birthrates than countries that don’t. A while back I read an article that contrasted Sweden with other European states that, despite aggressive pronatalist policies (like handing out per-child credits to families) had extremely low birthrates. The TL,DR version went something like this:

I cannot re-find the article, but this one has similar information.


Nah, dont worry, I was just commenting that, for what is worth, I think socially we are much more feminist and progressive and not pushing women into the mother at home role as much as before.

Institutionally? You are spot on, not doing enough.

EDIT: For example, Sweden has, for what I read, 480 days of paternal leave for the couple, 90 reserved for the father, with the average dad taking 25% of the leave. Spain has 112 for the mother and just approved moving from 13 to 28 for the father.


That is not the way the math works. A consistent population in the various age cohorts would have only minor issues adjusting to longer lives in old age, assuming the society is willing to maintain progressive taxation.

Japan’s problem is a crash in the fertility rate of women, a lack of immigration to simply maintain the numbers, and a local version of global neoliberal austerity which creates the illusion that caregiving isn’t sustainable.


It’s been 25 years since I’ve lived there, but even then I had female friend who mentioned that some women opted not to get married. The career path was one reason but another was simply to opt out of the traditional lifestyle.

I should say I’m originally from the Czech Rep. and the population there has not changed since the war. There were govt. incentives to encourage couples to have more kids, although I don’t think its made that much difference.


It may be time to take inspiration from a terrible B-Movie that perfectly fits Japan. Robot Jox has in the background government propaganda posters encouraging people to make more babies. I say someone sell the idea of more babies along with giant robot fighting.


I believe in Japan a varient on Battle Royale would be more appropriate.


I think videogamer shut ins have a lot to do with this.

Nevermind xenophobia, high stress jobs, demanding societal norms, high cost of living, extremely competitive job market and universities, etc.

Yeah. Pretty sure it’s videogames.


media - manga, video games, movies - form a cybernetic feedback loop with their culture. media both reflects and sustains societal norms.

americans make and play a lot of somewhat violent video games, japanese make and play a lot of somewhat sexist romance games and dating sims. ( obviously an exaggeration but it seems to have some statistical truth. )

change comes from somewhere within the connected system. when the zeitgeist changes, the media will change, and the media will be part of making the change happen.


Declining property prices, less overcrowding, reduced environmental impact, demand for workers instead of manufacturers… Oh no.

Are we supposed to think overpopulation is a good thing or a bad thing?