To address Japan’s spiraling “problem” with population decline, a government-appointed panel stated that Japan needs to stabilize its population over the next 50 years at 100 million people. This would be the first time the government has placed a numeric target on population, if the plan is adopted. The Japanese government and most of the public are aware that, at current birth rates, Japan’s population is expected to fall to 87 million by 2060, with nearly 40 percent of the population over the age of 65.
Possible “solutions” that call for liberalizing immigration policy and gender inequality in the workforce have been raised before. The difference now is that the government is attempting to adopt a set of plans to hold the population above a specific target. The implications of a rapid decline and aging of the population have also been studied with regard to each municipality up to the year 2040, but the knock-on effects with regard to transportation and utility infrastructure, education, and elder care in regions far from population centers is less widely known.
Already parts of rural Japan are rapidly depopulating as younger people seek opportunity in the country’s vast metropolitan areas. The strain on the government to maintain adequate connections to Japan’s mountainous regions is daunting. Simply maintaining road and rail access could become prohibitively costly as construction costs through mountain regions spiral higher. The panel estimates that more than 25 percent of local governments may be unable to provide administrative services if this population outflow to the cities continues.
Quotation marks around “problem” and “solutions” added by Newswatch editor
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