traveling to japan alone

Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has said that his country is at the stage of “now or never” as concerns over the falling birth rate in the country intensify. Kishida has said that the country may no longer be able to function if the issue isn’t reversed. 

The birth rate has been in decline in Japan for some time now, and had less than a million births last year. Some estimates suggest that this figure is below 800,000. For comparison, 50 years ago, the number of births in Japan per year was, on average, more than two million.

In response to the falling birth rate, Mr. Kishida said:

“Japan is standing on the verge of whether we can continue to function as a society. Focusing attention on policies regarding children and child-rearing is an issue that cannot wait and can not be postponed.”

The Prime Minister added that he wants his government to double its spending on policies and programs that encourage couples to have children and support young families. He has stated that a government agency is going to begin work on tackling the issue in April. 

The policies Mr. Kishida refers to could mirror those being implemented in China, another country facing a population crisis. In recent years, the Chinese government has offered incentives to couples with children. These incentives include tax breaks and better healthcare but haven’t as yet had the desired effect. 

Critics of such policies have said that they don’t do enough to ease the burden of childcare, something which can be of great expense wherever you are in the world. With Kishida set on introducing child-bearing policies imminently, it will be interesting to see whether he follows the way of his neighbors or listens to these critics. 

Related: 10 Tips for Traveling to Japan Alone

How Japan Got Here?

With a population of 125 million, Japan is going to need more than 800,000 births a year to stay functioning in the way they have done for the past fifty years. 

A unique factor in Japan, compared to other countries with birthing issues, is that life expectancy continues to rise in the country. While on the face of it, this may seem like a good counter to a slow birth rate, it’s a negative. 

More old people generally means more ill health, which, in turn, means there need to be more younger people to support and look after them. Additionally, if a large chunk of the population is old, then they 1) have earned the right to no longer work and 2) wouldn’t be as efficient as younger workers even if they wanted to carry on working. 

28% of the country is now aged over 65, which means they have the world’s second-highest proportion of people aged 65 and over. The only country with a larger percentage is Monaco, a small state within France with nowhere near the same pressures or demands that Japan has. 

Another reason for the declining birth rate could be the country’s strict immigration laws. With fewer and fewer people moving to Japan, there are fewer opportunities for conception, and some experts are now calling for these laws to be relaxed to get more young people into the country. 

Additional factors that play a part in falling birth rates worldwide are the cost of living increases, women focusing more on their careers, and easy access to contraception. All of these factors combined make for fewer children. 

Andrew Delaney
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