Japan is dying
THE human race has always been faced with catastrophic situations that have often altered the course of history. The Black Death, or bubonic plague epidemic of the mid-14th century, killed as many as 200 million people across Asia, including taking out 30 percent of the European population.
The feudal system and serfdom was dealt a deathblow as an economic system by the plague. There were not enough workers left to till the fields and to buy finished goods. Workers now demanded wages, and not just food on the table, in return for their labor.
Every turn of a century has seen forecasts of the end of the world. In the 1950s and 1960s global nuclear war was the doomsday prediction. We have now progressed to “global warming” and “climate change” as the threat to life on planet Earth as we know it.
In the 1970s the fear of overpopulation putting the world on a course to extinction seemed rational at the time. Limited resources placed against a potentially unlimited human population is an argument that is difficult to dismiss. We know now that the greater problem may be the distribution of the resources rather than the amount.
However, many nations are facing potential “extinction” because their populations are shrinking.
For a nation to maintain a stable population, the replacement rate needs to be at a minimum of 2.1 children per woman. Interestingly, as of 2010, nearly 50 percent of the world population lives in nations with subreplacement fertility.
These nations are able to maintain their population numbers through immigration into the country. However, Japan is showing a disastrous population growth and subsequent demographic trends into the future.
Japan’s fertility rate is only 1.4 children per woman, and this declining fertility rate has been a trend for two decades. Now that trend is catching up with Japan, as the latest census shows that the population declined by nearly 1 million between 2010 and 2015.
This is the first time in modern history that Japan’s population has decreased. It has been clear for some time that Japan was in trouble. Population growth peaked in 1950 and has fallen continuously since 1975. By 2011 it had hit zero growth.
As life span increases and fewer babies are born, the population also ages. Five percent of Filipinos are age 65 and over. Less than 15 percent of Americans are in the 65- plus age group. Currently, over 30 percent of Japanese are senior citizens.
Reduced population growth has been a concern since earliest times. The Greek historian Polybius blamed the decline of the Hellenistic world on low fertility rates. He wrote in his Histories that “in our time all Greece was visited by a dearth of children and generally a decay of population, owing to which the cities were denuded of inhabitants, and a failure of productiveness resulted, though there were no long- continued wars or serious pestilences among us.” This describes 21st- century Japan.