- 14 Mar 2002
- Reaction score
Surprisingly clear words from the PM, but few specifics: yesterday, Mr Kishida warned that Japan was on the brink of being unable to function as a society because of its falling birth rate. Tackling its shrinking population was a case of "now or never."
Japan - population 125 million - is estimated to have had fewer than 800,000 births last year. In the 1970s, that figure was more than two million. Birth rates are slowing in many countries, including Japan's neighbours. But the issue is particularly acute in Japan as life expectancy has risen in recent decades, meaning there are a growing number of older people and declining numbers of workers to support them. According to World Bank data, Japan now has the world's second-highest proportion of people aged 65 and over - about 28% - after the tiny state of Monaco. "Japan is on the verge of whether we can continue functioning as a society," Mr Kishida told lawmakers.
Fumio Kishida says Japan is on the verge of not being able to function.
Like in other Asian nations such as South Korea, fewer births means that Japan's labor force is likely to continue shrinking, putting pressure on a social security system that has to support a graying population. But the prime minister was short on specifics. Having earlier proposed three key platforms -- economic support, childcare services and working style reform -- Kishida said he would present an outline by June for a future doubling of the childcare budget. "I would like to implement unprecedented countermeasures to [halt] the falling birthrate to allow everyone to participate in child-rearing regardless of age or gender," he said, adding that he would "thoroughly" listen to the voices of parents, young people and childcare service providers.