As readers of this blog (both of them) know, I'm somewhat preoccupied with the shift in demographics being ushered in by the retirement of the Baby Boomers here in America. The fiscal burden has two components: growing federal spending on the elderly (e.g. Social Security and Medicare) and the ability of the government to collect taxes which depends on a steady stream of younger workers. Europe is coping with its aging population and low birth rate by importing a lot of immigrants which alleviates the fiscal problem but exacerbates social strains. But what if you have a country and culture that doesn't readily accept foreigners and immigration?
Japan is on the cusp of a demographic tsunami with a steadily aging population and dearth of children to populate the next generation. This combination means economic, social, and cultural disaster for Japan. From the WashPost: "Japan steadily becoming a land of few children"
For this is the land of disappearing children and a slow-motion demographic catastrophe that is without precedent in the developed world.With no workers in the proverbial pipeline, economic growth will cease:
The number of children has declined for 27 consecutive years, a government report said over the weekend. Japan now has fewer children who are 14 or younger than at any time since 1908.
The economic and social consequences of these trends are difficult to overstate. Japan, now the world's second-largest economy, will lose 70 percent of its workforce by 2050 and economic growth will slow to zero, according to a report this year by the nonprofit Japan Center for Economic Research.Needless to say, the population that remains will be mostly elderly, which will create a tremendous demand for medical and social services as Japan struggles with a diminished tax base. Unless the Japanese start having kids - pronto - the only choice available will be to allow large-scale immigration, probably from Indonesia and the Philippines. The face of Japan, perforce, will transform when there are no more Japanese.
Population shrinkage began three years ago and is gathering pace. Within 50 years, the population, now 127 million, will fall by a third, the government projects. Within a century, two-thirds of the population will be gone.