744 Japanese Municipalities May Disappear: Experts

REUTERS/Issei Kato
Office and residential buildings in Tokyo.

Tokyo, April 24 (Jiji Press) — A total of 744 Japanese municipalities are at risk of disappearing in the future due to a decrease in young women living in them, a report by private-sector experts showed Wednesday.

The expert panel, chaired by Akio Mimura, former chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, predicted that the number of young women in the 744 cities, towns and villages will fall by half or more from 2020 to 2050.

The number, however, is lower than the 896 cities, wards, towns and villages that a different group said in 2014 were facing possible extinction, thanks to an increase in the population of foreigners. Meanwhile, the latest report noted that the number of births remains on a downward trajectory.

The report is based on region-by-region population estimates through 2050 released by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research last December. The expert panel focused on changes in the number of women in their 20s and 30s, who are most likely to give birth.

Of the 744 municipalities deemed at risk of extinction, 165 were in the Tohoku northeastern region, making it the area with the most such municipalities. The Kyushu-Okinawa southwestern region had the fewest at-risk municipalities, at 76.

The report also said that 65 municipalities were likely to keep the population of young women 100 years in the future around 50 pct of the current number, calling them municipalities likely to be independently sustainable.

The 2014 estimate sparked full-fledged efforts by central and local governments to revitalize local communities.

But the latest report argued that many of these measures focused on rectifying population outflows, pitting nearby municipalities against each other in a battle for young residents. It called instead for steps against natural population decline, such as improving the birthrate.