Tokyo (AsiaNews) - Japan's flagging population threatens Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic recovery efforts. Without young people to pay for the elderly, the entire welfare system is in danger of collapse at a time when a rising national debt is dampening prospect of economic growth.
According to Health Ministry and the Statistics Bureau of Japan, the country's population dropped by 244,000 last year, a seventh straight year of decline. Births fell by about 6,000 from a year earlier to 1,031,000 and deaths increased by about 19,000 to 1,275,000. For the past 33 years, the population under 15 has also dropped.
Rising welfare spending is pushing up the debt in a country where the national debt is almost twice the GDP. And a declining population cuts domestic demand increasing deflationary pressures.
The Japanese Catholic Church has sought to raise awareness in the country of 127 million people.
The Bishops' Conference had declared 2010 the 'Year of Life' and launched a series of medical and social initiatives in favour of more births.
However, the results have not yet been satisfactory. Many couples wait too long to have a child, focusing on their career.
Equally, a very high rate of suicide among young people and consumption-related policies do not bode well for the future.