Record low number of babies born in Japan
August 16th 2012
Fewer babies were born in Japan in the last year than any other on record, pulling down its population for the third year in a row, according to government statistics released this week. As of the end of March, Japan had more than 260,000 fewer people than a year earlier, the biggest drop of the Japanese population yet, according to Japanese media. The baby bust has continued year after year despite Japanese efforts to nudge up the numbers: The government has doled out payments for couples with children and subsidized daycare. Japanese towns publicly herald the number of local births in city signs. Engineering students even crafted a cooing robotic baby years ago in hope of setting biological clocks ticking. Taking a more pointed tack, one professor recently created an online clock that ominously counts down until Japan has no children left – a doomsday estimated to roll around in 3012. ‘It is not received seriously, with urgency,’ economics professor Hiroshi Yoshida of Tohoku University wrote as the clock was unveiled on Children’s Day in May.
As the number of babies dwindles in Japan, the number of elderly is rising, thanks to some of the most impressive lifespans in the world. Japanese women were pushed from the top spot in global longevity only after the devastating tsunami of last year, which claimed thousands of elderly victims. Demographers predict that a third of Japanese will be older than 65 by the middle of the century. The rapid graying of Japan imperils its social security system and could stunt its economy. So far, the country has whittled down social security benefits and raised taxes, but the pressure continues to mount as Japan grows older, said Robert Clark, an economics professor at North Carolina State University. The growing number of elderly suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are also expected to put new pressure on institutions and families.
Read the full article: Los Angeles Times
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