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On The Verge Of Disappearing

Masako Mori, a senior adviser to Fumio Kishida, the Prime Minister of Japan, recently expressed serious concern over the rapidly declining population of his country, saying that the Asian nation would “disappear” in near future, if action was not taken to curb its slowing birth rate. He made the comment soon after the Japanese Health Ministry confirmed that the birth rate of the country hit a new record low, with just 799,728 births in 2022, the lowest number on record. In a rare first, the population has dipped below 800,000, as about twice as many people died as were born in the country in 2022.

Economic instability has increased in the post-COVID-19 Pandemic world, and Japan is no exception to this. According to the Health Ministry, the tendency to keep families small has been noticed in the last couple of years. Even the majority of Japan’s younger generations is unwilling to tie a nuptial knot. Due to this, the birth rate has decreased rapidly in recent times. With the island nation recording the lowest number of births ever in 2022, the Health Ministry has mentioned in a statement that the scenario could destroy the social structure, as well as the economy.

Meanwhile, various social organisations believe that Tokyo’s strict immigration policy is one of the reasons behind the declining birth rate. The outcome of a 2021 survey, carried out by a State-run agency called the National Institute of Population and Social Security, have raised considerable concerns about the birth rate ratio. As per the survey, around 17.3% of men and 14.6% of women, aged 18 to 34, stressed that they had no plan to get married. This survey has been conducted every year since 1982. However, the outcomes of the surveys, carried out in the past few years, have made the Government of Japan worried.

As per statistics published by the Ministry of Health, fewer than 0.8 million babies were born in Japan in 2022. The figure was 812,000 in 2021, and 740,000 in 2020. On the other hand, the number of deaths was 1,580,000 in 2022. In other words, the death rate was almost double of the birth rate last year.

Bloomberg quoted Mori as saying: “It’s the people who have to live through the process of disappearance who will face enormous harm. It’s a terrible disease that will afflict those children.” Experts are of the opinion that Japan is facing a dire problem, as the country has already reached the stage where the elderly make up nearly 30% of the population. Neighbouring South Korea, too, is experiencing record-low births.

It may be noted that countries, like Italy, South Korea and the US, have also registered declining birth rates in recent times. However, the situation in Japan is the worst. The term disappear portrays the real situation in Japan. It means that the country is in the extreme stage of a trajectory. If most of the people are ageing or soon to retire, then they shall soon fall outside the workforce. In that case, younger generations would have to support them, with more of their taxes going to pensions, leaving less for the present generation’s requirements. The lack of working-age people would also mean fewer caregivers for the elderly. Indeed, the Kishida Government has a tough job in hand.

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