CNN has a new article: the Number of children in Japan shrinks to new record low. The article reports on the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s latest annual survey. Here’s a brief recap:
The number of children in Japan has fallen for the 37th straight year in a row, a sign the country’s attempts to offset the country’s severely aging population are failing.
Monetary incentives for having children have actually increased the fertility rate in Japan from a low of 1.26 in 2005 to 1.45 in 2015. This is nowhere near the 2.1 rate needed to sustain a population without immigration.
Japan has been struggling with low birth rates for decades, but unlike many other industrialized countries which have also seen native populations having fewer children, it has not been able to make the numbers up with immigrants.
It’s not a case of ability. Japan doesn’t allow immigration.
By 2060, the country’s population is expected to plummet to 86.74 million from its current total of 126.26 million, according to a projection by the Japanese Health Ministry. With fewer workers paying taxes to support a growing silver population in need of pensions and healthcare services, Japan’s economy is facing an unprecedented challenge.
And as the population decreases, the percentage of people who need support in old age will continue to grow.
The lack of new workers is heightened by Japan’s woeful levels of gender disparity, a recent OECD report warned. While the ratio of boys to girls is relatively in keeping with most industrialized countries, there is currently a 25% gender pay gap in Japan, the third-widest of all member states, and women are often discouraged from participating in the workforce by a variety of factors including lack of childcare, discrimination, and sexual harassment.
It’s ironic that the government is paying women to stay home and have children, which directly contributes to the gender pay gap, as women who leave the work force to raise children gain less experience and miss out on promotion opportunities.
“As Japan’s elderly population is projected to reach nearly three-quarters of the working-age population by 2050, using all available talent in the labor market is key to overcome labor shortages,” the report warned.
But sending all women to work will further reduce the fertility rate.
“This will require creating better work conditions for youth, incentivizing employment for the elderly, attracting foreign workers and closing gender gaps in job quality to promote the inclusion of women.”
The gender job quality gap is a new one on me. Considering that the most undesirable and dangerous jobs are generally done by men, I’m guessing it’s a subjective phenomenon.
I don’t think you can have your cake and eat it too. Either pay women to stay home and raise the birth rate, or pay them to work to support the elderly. Doing both won’t work.