Japan belongs to seniors: 27 per cent of the population is over 65 years
Census data indicate that 34.6 million Japanese are over 65, an absolute record since statistical records have been kept. Some 10.45 million people or 8 per cent is over 80. Today the country marks Respect for the Aged Day, but the Church warns that without new births the country could collapse.
Tokyo (AsiaNews) – The number of people in Japan 65 years old or older rose to a record 34.61 million, accounting for 27.3 per cent of the nation’s population. This represent 730,000 more senior citizens (0.6 per cent) over the previous year. The figures were released today, which is Respect for the Aged Day.
Women in this age group numbered 19.62 million, making up 30.1 per cent of the total female population, compared to 14.99 million men 65 or older, who represent 24.3 per cent of the male population.
Men and women aged 70 or older totaled 24.37 million and accounted for 19.2 per cent of the population, while those 75 or older numbered 16.97 million, or 13.4 per cent of the population.
The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research forecasts the proportion of senior citizens in the total population will exceed 30 per cent in 2024.
As the number of seniors rises, the birthrate is unable to compensate for the graying of the population. The current birthrate stands at 1.43 children per woman, low but better than Hong Kong (1.12), Singapore and South Korea (1.19).
This does not however guarantee generational replacement, which is necessary to maintain the welfare and pension system. In fact, the aging population is the country’s most urgent problem, and could lead to the collapse of the pension and welfare system.
This, according to Mgr Kikuchi Bishop of Niigata in a commentary published by AsiaNews, brings another negative aspect. "An aging society with fewer children and drastic shift of youth population to major cities such as Tokyo means the collapse of the present local communities."
The Japanese Catholic Church has tried for some time to raise awareness among ordinary Japanese about the issue. The Bishops' Conference declared 2010 the "Year for Life" and launched a number of health and social initiatives in favour of more pregnancies.
The results, however, are still not satisfactory since many couples choose their career and wait beyond the maximum time to have a child.
In addition, a very high youth suicide rate and policies favouring consumerism do not bode well for the future.