Capital population decrease . . .
According to recently released statistics by the Tokyo Metropolis government, the city’s population declined by 48,600 people in 2021, putting it just shy of 14 million. This was the first drop in 26 years. Last year saw a record outflow of people from the city and further deceleration of influx into the capital. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes six surrounding prefectures and is the world’s largest metropolitan area with a population of 37.2 million, also saw a record outflow of people, but it is not yet shrinking. Tokyo Metropolis’ population decline is also notable because it was one of only a handful of prefectures with population increases amidst the national population decline over the last two decades.
Pandemic-induced trends . . .
The Japanese government has long worked on regional revitalization strategies to offset population and economic decline outside major metropolitan centres. Offsetting the Greater Tokyo Area’s allure through a variety of campaigns to entice people to move to or stay in rural areas was part of the mix. But it seems that last year’s outflow of people may have more to do with shifting pandemic-induced attitudes around remote work, with several large Japanese companies expanding support for working remotely. Earlier this month, Yahoo Japan told its 8,000 employees that they could work from anywhere in the country. But given that extensive remote work was a pre-pandemic taboo, and Japanese homes are generally not set up for home offices, many question whether the shift is here to stay.
The world’s oldest country by population . . .
For decades, Japan has claimed the world’s oldest population and has witnessed the shrinking and disappearance of villages and smaller towns as people abandon the countryside for cities. Trends in remote work may slowly shift labour practices in Japan, but they will do little to mitigate related demographic and labour challenges. Pandemic-related entry restrictions have also meant that Japan has seen an abrupt decline of foreigners moving to Japan on temporary work visas; from 2019 to 2020, that decline numbered 300,000 people. However, immigration alone could not alleviate Japan’s demographic challenges as it would need more than 600,000 immigrants a year to maintain a working-age population at the 1995 level. The country’s experiences with an aging society are bound to hold lessons for other developed countries on similar demographic trajectories, such as South Korea, China, and Canada.
- Bloomberg: Tokyo loses population for first time in 26 years amid pandemic
- The Diplomat: Japan’s self-destructive immigration policy
- Statistics Bureau of Japan: Statistical Handbook of Japan 2021