Japan Grapples with Aging Population, Low Birthrate: ‘Now or Never,’ Says PM

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio said on Monday that, for Japan, “it is now or never when it comes to policies regarding births and child-rearing. It is an issue that simply cannot wait any longer.” Kishida, during his speech at the opening of the parliamentary session, also said that a new government agency, the Children and Families Agency, would be stood up in April 2023 to address the issue. The prime minster stated that the government would “submit plans to double the budget on child-related policies by June,” according to Reuters.

‘Baby benefits’ rolled out in bid to boost birthrate

Japan’s birthrate — the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime — stands at 1.3, decreasing every year for the last six years. In comparison, Canada’s birthrate was 1.4 in 2020, while China’s birthrate hit 1.18 in 2022. South Korea’s birthrate was just 0.81 in 2021, the lowest in the world. Local governments across Japan are pitching in to remedy the country’s demographic crisis. In early January, Tokyo governor Koike Yuriko announced that Tokyo would launch a new childcare benefit program, giving households C$51.18 (5,000 yen) per month for each child up to 18 years old.

Dire demographic predictions

A September 2022 survey from a Tokyo-based business intelligence firm highlighted the damaging effects of Japan’s demographic troubles: more than half of the 11,621 respondent companies said that they were suffering from a shortage of permanent employees. And between January and June 2022, only 385,000 babies were born in Japan, a decrease of more than five per cent compared to the same period in 2021. Meanwhile, nearly 30 per cent of the country’s population is over the age of 65. One UN analysis predicts that Japan could see its population decrease by 20.7 million people by 2050.