Nation Must Prepare for Projected 30% Decline

In 2070, elderly people will account for nearly 40% of the nation’s population, and the number of children will have decreased to half of the current level. The future impact of population decline must be examined, and the country as a whole must take necessary measures.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research has released a new population projection, predicting that the total population in 2070 will be 87 million, down 30% from 126.15 million in 2020.

A population of 87 million is the same level as that of 1953, soon after World War II. At that time, people aged 65 and older accounted for only 5% of the population, but the figure will be 38% in 2070.

Japan will become one of the few countries in the world with a super-aged society. It is important to develop social systems in order to maintain the nation’s vitality under such circumstances.

One of the most serious demographic issues is the significant decline in the working-age population, comprising people 15 to 64 years old, who are the driving force of the nation’s economy. Their number is projected to decrease from 75.09 million today to 45.35 million in 2070.

Even now, labor shortages are impacting countless industries, such as agriculture, nursing care, logistics and construction. The shortage of people willing to serve as Self-Defense Forces personnel and public servants will likely affect national defense and the maintenance of public services.

The government should draw up a medium- to long-term strategy to secure the labor force. First, it is important to create an environment in which women and elderly people can work comfortably.

According to the projection, the total population of Japan will fall below 100 million in 2056, three years later than the previous forecast six years ago. Although the decrease in the number of children will continue, the pace of population decline has been projected to slow down because the number of foreigners is expected to increase.

As a result, the percentage of foreigners in the total population will rise from 2% today to 10% in 2070. The presence of foreign workers to support society and the economy will further increase.

The government has begun to review its policies for accepting foreign nationals. In order to alleviate the labor shortage, the government plans to ease the requirements for the specified skilled worker program, which opened the door to manual laborers, and permit long-term employment.

To what extent can foreign nationals be accepted? The debate must be deepened as a fundamental issue of Japan.

The decline in the number of children will accelerate further. According to the projection, the number of children under the age of 15 will fall from the current 15.03 million to 7.97 million in 2070. Is there a possibility the projection will improve? The government will face questions regarding the implementation of countermeasures.

Under the current social security system, including pensions and medical care, one elderly person is supported by two to three working-age people, but in 2070 one elderly person will be supported by 1.3 working-age people.

The government must hasten discussions on a review of the benefits and burdens to make the system more sustainable.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 29, 2023)