07/03/2015, 00.00
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Japan’s population drops to historic lows: a quarter over 65

The last national census data confirms fall births compared to deaths for the sixth year in a row. 126,160,000 Japanese, down 271,058 in sharpest decline ever recorded in modern times. 25,90% over 65, a quarter of total population, for first time since 1968.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Japanese population dropped for the sixth year in a row in 2014 and reached historic lows according to data from the  national census. According to official data, the Japanese are now 126160000: in 2014, the total number dropped by 271,058, and this figure represents the worst since data was first recorded.

Moreover nationwide the population is aging: over 65’s (entitled to pensions) now count for 25,90% of the population. Government officials point out that it is the first time since 1968 that this sector of society has exceeded a quarter of the total.

The census is based on the official records of residents. In 2014 1,003,000 people were born in the country  (the lowest number since 1979) while 1.27 million died (the highest number from the same year). Of the 47 national prefectures, only six have increased: among them Tokyo, Saitama and Kanagawa. The census shows that the population has declined in 77% of cities and 88% in rural areas and small towns.

Population aging is currently the most urgent problem for the country, which threatens to collapse  the pension system and welfare. This drama, writes the Bishop of Niigata Msgr. Kikuchi in a commentary published by AsiaNews, also brings another negative aspect: "An aging society and the dramatic decline of the young population, which moves to big cities like Tokyo, means the disappearance of local communities."

The Japanese Catholic Church has sought to raise awareness among Japanese residents. The Bishops' Conference declared 2010 "Year for Life" and launched a series of medical and social initiatives in favor of pregnancies.

The results, however, are still unsatisfactory: many couples prefer to wait beyond the maximum age to have a child, favoring their career. In addition, a very high rate of suicide among juveniles and a overly consumerist social policy do not bode well for the future.

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