Japan's Aging Population: a Descriptive Study on the Effectiveness of the Government Policies from the First Half of 1980s-Present

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Many developed countries are facing the problem of an increasing aging population. Japan, being one, is not exempted from this continuously growing crisis. Peterson (1999), from the cover of his book Gray Dawn: How the Coming Age Wave Will Transform America and the World, already expressed his clamor for global awareness regarding this issue when he stated that, “There’s an iceberg dead ahead. It’s called global aging, and it threatens to bankrupt the great powers... Now is the time to ring the alarm bell.” In Europe, the aging population was brought about by a combination of low fertility rates and high life expectancies. Japan has been experiencing the same. This is brought about by a number of factors, including high and excellent education (considering that they are well-off countries), late marriage, and small living spaces (considering that Japan is a small country and is largely surrounded by water). “From the 1700s till the 1850s, the population of Japan remained steady at about 30 million. It just started to grow when Japan pursued modernization during the Meiji Restoration in 1868. In more recent years, the annual pace of population growth slowed down averaging about one percent from the 1960s till the 70s. In 2009 population estimate was 127.51 million, down by 183,000 from the year before” (Statistics Bureau, 2010). From this short data, it can be seen how Japan’s population has drastically declined. What is worse is that, this problem is seen to progress further at a serious pace. This paper is significant in present-day study, because (a) solving the problem of the aging population may be a key solution for Japan to regain its status as the world’s second largest economy, (b) awareness in this problem may save the race of the Japanese from possible extinction in the next two millennia, and (c) advancing this kind of research problem and presenting possible solutions may also pave way for countries, including Japan, that are experiencing similar problems to open their eyes to accepting and reconsidering policy resolutions that they do not currently approve of. Having these in mind, this paper wishes to contend the following points: first, to present how the graying of the population of Japan poses a huge threat to the economic and social stability of Japan as a mono-national state; second, to examine the effectiveness of the policies of the government of Japan on the problem of an aging population beginning from the 1980s, as this issue began to be important in the first half of this decade, till present; lastly, to present possible solutions that are plausible enough to address this problem. The author theorizes in this paper that “if Japan will not welcome new and possibly more effective policies, the Japanese race is likely to be extinct in the next 1, 500 to 2,000 years, and Japan, as a nation, would just vanish in thin air.” FEWER BABIES, MORE ELDERS: A REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Facing the problem of an aging population is one of the greatest challenges that confront Japan in the contemporary era. Many authors have tried to discuss how this aging society, if not to be solved soon, may lead to Japan’s downfall. However, I would like to emphasize some of the insufficiencies in their study, so that this paper will be able to serve the purpose of having it made and possibly contribute to the needs of the Japanese society. According to a study by Gavrilov and Heuveline (2003),

“A direct consequence of the ongoing global fertility transition (decline) and of mortality decline at older ages, population aging is expected to be among the most prominent global demographic trends of the 21stcentury. Population aging is progressing rapidly in many industrialized countries, but those developing countries whose fertility declines began relatively early also are experiencing rapid increases in their proportion of elderly people. This pattern is expected to continue over the next few decades,...
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