Japan’s graying population: The reasons behind it, steps taken to curb it and the implications of an aging society
Japan has seen rapid development from the times of Meiji Restoration (1868) up till today. In fact, it has grown more rapidly than any other countries from 1870 to 1994 (Nafziger,1995) because of the various economic policies its government had undertaken after the war ended. Thus, as a result of this economic growth, standard of living has gone up and along with technological advancements, Japan enjoys one of the highest life expectancy compared to any other countries in the world today. It even had the highest life expectancy in 1987; 76 for males and 82 for females (Martin, 1989). It is because of this rapid economic growth that has triggered Japan to be faced with a dilemma; an aging society.
After World War 2 had ended, there was an influx of birth and a rise to the population in Japan. There are a host of reasons attributed to this influx; Firstly, soldiers had just returned from the war to their wives and that because of this, there was a lack of family planning which resulted in a baby boom. Secondly, the economic policies adopted by the government which included having a high savings rate resulted in Japan to eradiate famines, epidemics, and infanticides on a large scale, as compared to other Asian countries. Nutrition levels also increased and by 1993, it had the highest life expectancy of seventy nine years and lowest infant mortality rate (4.4 per 1000) in the world (Bennett, 1951)
Reasons for aging population
There are many reasons to explain why Japan, one of the leading economic industries in the world, has a society which has a demographic transition model as such;
Firstly, with advancements in modern technology and better healthcare, the overall mortality rate in Japan has seen a steady decrease over the years. This means that people are able to live longer and will also be able to work even longer, subject to their health conditions. They are also able to live through diseases that they would not previously have survived and this is only possible because of advancements in medical healthcare. Thus, this gives rise to a better and longer life expectancy, which has been mentioned previously.
Another key factor is declining birth rates. Japan has one of the lowest total fertility rate (TFR) in the world and this can be attributed to numerous factors. Firstly, ever since the oil crisis in 1970 which has pushed prices up causing inflation, it resulted in the Japanese to work even harder. This resulted in people spending more time in their career and a preference for settling down at a later age, resulting in a possibility that they will have lesser children. Secondly, people are having less children anyway. As a result of globalization and post-industrialization, there is an increasing demand in human capital investment. Henceforth, quality of children is more sought after and thus, educational costs becomes higher, to facilitate the increase in quality. As a result, the rising cost of having children including the public and private educational costs is thought to be the main reason of the recent low fertility in Japan (Suzuki, 2006) That said, many young people are choosing to stay in school longer as compared to last time. Previously, people went out to work as young as 16 or 17 be it in the agricultural or manufacturing or other industries as they were eager to provide for their family and earn money. However, as times changed, so do the mindset of the youngsters now. People are more concerned with getting a better education, thus, choosing to stay in school longer and delaying job opportunities. This...