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Hi Blog. Here are two sobering articles regarding Japan’s unsustainability. The first indicates that Japan’s population decrease is, as predicted, accelerating, dropping by a record quarter-million in 2011 alone. Now, let’s acknowledge the caveats: This may be a blip due to the horrendous year that 2011 was for Japan. However, the death toll from the triple disasters is only estimated (highball) at around 20,000, less than a tenth of the overall fall in Japanese population. Moreover, if people say that this is due to people fleeing the country (meaning they’ll come back when the coast is clear, i.e., the fall is but temporary), okay, but then, I can’t help but point out, it’s clear the preponderance of the “flyjin” phenomenon is, once again, not due to NJ fleeing. So I’m not so sure that “fleeing” is the cause either. I’ll just chalk this development as more evidence of Japan’s unsustainability without immigration.
The second article is, I believe, more alarmist and latently jingoistic — appealing to nationalism to get Japan to pull its socks up. A think tank affiliated with Keidanren (and we know how influential they are in the public policy realm — through them we got our new NJ cheap labor visa regimes from 1990 onwards) is saying that, horrors, Japan will not only drop in the world rankings (which we’ve anticipated for quite a while now due to demographics), THEY’LL FALL BEHIND SOUTH KOREA!! Why South Korea (as opposed to, say, Spain)? Because that would be a blow to national pride — a former colony and perpetual rival that we’ve always felt superior to (and who can apparently only use but the simplest cameras) shaming us in the world economy rankings!
Whether or not these predictions come true is irrelevant (after all, as Debito.org Reader Charuzu has pointed out in comments elsewhere, if and when the ROK and the DPRK reunify the costs will be horrendous) — if you don’t want this to become a self-fulfilling prophecy and have the Koreans lord it over us, DO SOMETHING!!, is basically the underlying call. After all, we’ve had warnings for well over a decade now that Japan’s population is going to fall and cause economic stagnation, and that didn’t change public policy all that much. It seems that only appeals to nationalism (and this time, targeting foreigners outside Japan, not within, as the latter strategy merely eliminated NJ labor and immigration as a possible solution), not appeals to logic, will pull Japan out of an economic nosedive. Arudou Debito
Japan’s population falls 259,000 in 2011
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 19, 2012), courtesy of JK
Japan’s population plunged more than 250,000 in the year until Oct. 1, with the number of children declining precipitously during this period, according to the government.
The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry’s Current Population Estimates put the population at 127,799,000, down 259,000 from a year ago, a record 0.2 percent decline since comparable data became available in 1950.
The number of children aged up to 14 against the total population was a record low 13.1 percent, while the number of people aged 65 or older was the highest ever at 23.3 percent.
The population estimates, which are based on national censuses carried out every five years, include foreign residents.
To calculate the total population, the internal affairs ministry used data from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on natural changes in population–the number of births minus deaths–and social changes–the number of persons who entered Japan minus those who left.
This is the third time Japan’s population has decreased following 2005 and 2009, but the number of births was the lowest ever at 1,073,000.
With deaths outnumbering births by 180,000, the population in the natural change category declined for the fifth year in a row. The decrease is widening year by year.
According to the estimates, the number of children aged up to 14 totaled 16,705,000, a record low, while the elderly population rose 268,000 from a year ago to 29,752,000, an all-time high.
“The figures indicate the pace of the nation’s graying is accelerating,” an internal affairs ministry official said.
In the social change category, the population fell 79,000 from a year ago. Of them, non-Japanese residents who lived in Japan for 90 days or longer fell 51,000, the largest decline ever.
In looking at the child population, working generation (15 to 64) and the elderly, the ministry said the elderly outnumbered the child population in 46 of the 47 prefectures. Okinawa Prefecture was the exception.
In Hokkaido and 23 other prefectures, people aged 75 or older outnumbered children.
The impact of the last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake and the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were seen in the population estimates, particularly in the number of people who left Japan.
Fukushima Prefecture saw the largest decrease in population, with a 1.93 percent decline from a year ago.
Iwate Prefecture suffered a 1.21 percent drop, followed by a 1.03 percent decline in Akita Prefecture and a 0.91 percent plunge in Miyagi Prefecture.
S. Korea poised to overtake Japan in GDP per capita by 2030: report
A think tank affiliated with the Keidanren business federation is predicting that South Korea will pass Japan in gross domestic product per capita around 2030.
The 21st Century Public Policy Institute also says in a report issued Monday that Japan could even be dropped from the category of developed countries by 2030 unless the low birthrate and dwindling population are addressed.
“A declining population and the world’s fastest aging society will combine to have significant effects on the economy,” the report says.
“Unless something is done, we are afraid Japan will fall out of the league of advanced nations and again become a tiny country in the Far East.”
The institute assumes the population will drop to 116.6 million in 2030 from 128.1 million in 2010, with the percentage of working age people falling to 49.1 percent from 51.4 percent. Under these assumptions, the institute laid out four scenarios in GDP per capita.
In all but the most optimistic one, South Korea tops Japan in GDP per capita.
Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120419f2.html
30 comments on “Yomiuri: J population falls record 259,000 in 2011 (as does NJ pop.); Keidanren think tank sees ROK surpassing J GDP by 2030”
Some comments on statements by Doug RE the state of the economy:
“I agree Japan’s economic situation is not good. The mass production type industries (which were responsible for Japan’s rise during the Showa era) are getting creamed. However there are still small segments (primarily involving precision machinery and goods that require a high level of precision) that are doing well.”
I’m sure they are (although didn’t a national semiconductor maker go out of business recently?)
I also agree that there will continue to be opportunities for forigners to prosper here in the future. There will certainly be wealthy Japanese in 2060. Japan currently has the second highest amount of millionaires in the world.
The problem, as I see it, is that Japan will continue to become more unequal as a society.Wealth in Japan is becoming increasingly concentrated into certain groups. Unless there is major change and wealth disribution, there will be a super wealthy top layer of society and an impoverished underclass leading a semi-feudal existence, similar to other countries in Asia. So, is this a place that one would wish live long term or to raise a family?
Given the trouble the planet’s in I think we all have to change to a more simple way of living. Granted, the demographics in Japan are problematic but not, I think, the general decline in population. There are too many people on the planet anyway. There will, hopefully, come a time when we can judge our progress by something other than economic measures.
“Granted, the demographics in Japan are problematic”
Don’t grant that. Less people means less new infrastructure needed to be built, less mouths to feed, and less underemployment for marginal people.
It’s no big surprise that Japan’s population is going to begin falling around now, it’s a matter of elementary mathematics — births at around 1M and deaths around 1.2M.
There is nothing “unsustainable” about a falling population — in fact, I would argue the *exact opposite*. If you want unsustainable, look at India’s population pyramid.
Furthermore, Japan’s upcoming retirement burden is much more well-shaped compared to many other societies.
For one, Japan’s baby boom was very small and short — just 3 years 1947-1949. By comparison, the US’s baby boom went on and on, from 1946 through 1964, with the center of mass at 1955 and the peak birth year at 1957. This means the US’s retirement burden is going to double between 2000 and 2030, from 40M retirees to 80M (plus 30-40M immigrants too).
If Japan actually needs workers this century to shoulder labor burden, it has half the population tremendously underutilized, compared to OECD norms.
Japan’s population is going to halve between now and 2050. It will certainly be a grayer society and there will be many fewer children around compared to now (and the Peak Youth years of the early 1970s when the baby boom echo was appearing).
But Japan on the whole is still the world’s #1 creditor nation, at $3T in net assets. The one quadrillion yen national debt is largely an accounting fiction, a marker to indicate who has saved and who gets what when these savings are unwound this century.
The Chinese daily wage is Japan’s hourly wage, so under the current global configuration it makes no monetary sense for a single manufacturing job to be located in Japan.
As I’ve said before, I’d rather have Japan’s problems than the US’s, or China’s for that matter.
Correction to my above, the population will halve by 2100, not 2050. I misread this chart:
But — Man, that GDP-in-2030 article was certainly written by the whip-crackers at Keidanren.
The nation will be able to feed, house, hospital, educate, and entertain itself fine this century, as long as it plans ahead for the known future needs of its elderly population (and diesel prices don’t get ~too~ crazy). The graph above shows how the retiree burden is not an immense or rapidly-increasing — the number of retirees being cared for now is not too much smaller than the peak retirees, though the elderly population will begin to get a lot older by 2020 as the baby boom hits 70.
I was reading some of the comments posted on the Eric C thread where this discussion started.
I am still amusingly shocked to see people making comments along the lines of ‘the next 5 years will be a tipping point. If the J-leadership can (X,Y,Z)’.
It’s already too late.
I am not someone on the margins in this asessment. Please do an internet search, and you will see (even) Japanese economists for big J-banks (amongst many others), saying that it is too late, even as early as 5 years ago.
Japan requires massive structural and social changes in order to save it’s economy, and the J-gov and the people still can’t even accept the need for tax increases (as just one example). There is no consensus that a problem even exists, and those who accept there is a problem have either already left (mainly for Singapore), or are, due to denial, reverting to old fashioned ‘myths’ of ‘Japaneseness’ (Ishihara), rather than take practical measures.
Japan is the Titanic.
It has already hit the iceberg.
It can not be saved from sinking.
All of this debate is simply ‘the band playing on’, while J-gov efforts largely resemble the futility of rearranging the deck-chairs.
“Japan is the Titanic.”
From the 2030 article:
“The institute assumes the population will drop to 116.6 million in 2030 from 128.1 million in 2010, with the percentage of working age people falling to 49.1 percent from 51.4 percent.”
That’s a pretty tiny iceberg to hit.
The article hints at the obvious solution:
“in the best scenario, where Japan’s female labor force rises to the level of Sweden’s by 2040, it would be ranked 15th and South Korea 16th.”
“About 67 percent of Japanese women aged between 25 and 54 years are employed, about 15 percentage points lower than the highest ranked countries such as Sweden and Norway, the Paris- based organization said yesterday in an annual report on employment. Japanese women are underemployed despite having a level of education that is higher than the OECD average, it said.”
“Japan requires massive structural and social changes in order to save its economy”
There’s some pivoting needed, yes. The chart I posted above:
shows how the future (eg 2030) will be the inverse of 1980, same number of working age population, but the children and elderly numbers switching.
Now, the elderly do present a higher direct support burden compared to the young, for the elderly have pensions and health care expenses. But pensions are actually a very good economic stimulus, and Japan already has one of the most efficient health systems on the planet, in $/care terms at least.
As I said above, counterbalancing these higher retirement costs is the fact that Japan’s total population will be declining, not growing. This will give the economy great savings, since the existing capital establishment in public goods — railroads, schools, water systems, power generation and distribution — will no longer need to be added to, and it’s cheaper to maintain existing plant than build new plant.
I just don’t see the upcoming crisis of depopulation. How did this year’s hiring season go for college graduates?
Japan’s other problems — strong yen, persistent trade surplus — are very nice “problems” for an economy have.
— We’ve had a conversation before (which petered out when you started walloping us with acronyms without explanation) about Japan’s trade surpluses, with CNN’s Zakaria last January opining about not persistent trade surpluses, but Japan’s first trade deficit in 31 years. If you could take this on without blinding us with jargon (as you have so far this time, thanks), are you going to make the case that this new deficit development is just a blip?
I’m with Troy on this one. Japan’s falling population is not a problem at all. In fact, I’d even entertain economist Eamonn Fingleton’s notion that Japan’s population drop was centrally planned and anticipated, so as to make the nation more self sufficient in food and other resources. I think all the handwringing over the population drop is a clever diversion from the ways Japan is doing just fine.
Even if Japan’s population drop means its heyday is done, so what? That’s a very different thing from saying the country is becoming impoverished or socially or politically unstable. Portugal was once a powerful, wealthy empire with a lot of clout on the world stage. It has now retired into a peripheral corner of Europe, but its standard of living is still pretty good. The average person born in Portugal today still has far more creature comforts and chances in life available to them than the average person born in up-and-coming China or India. That’s most likely Japan’s fate, as I see it — quietly bowing out of major world affairs, but still remaining a pretty good place to live, if you’re a native of the place.
All Japan really wants is to be left alone, and to be well buffered against all sources of turbulence from outside. I’d say it’s a country well on its way to fulfilling this wish.
In discussions like this, you have to compare apples to apples. On one hand you have the urination contests like GDP and GDP growth rates and other markers of face on the world economic stage. Only tangentially related are concerns like inequality and quality of life for the average citizen. I happen to feel the latter are far more germane to the average person’s life, and what economic policy (everywhere) should be aiming primarily to raise.
What a tragedy it would if the overcrowded world got a little less crowded.
are you going to make the case that this new deficit development is just a blip?
“The Finance Ministry’s preliminary trade data showed a 4.41 trillion yen ($54 billion) trade deficit for the fiscal year that ended March 31.”
by way of comparison, the US’s trade deficit in 2011 was just about 10X that:
as for the “blip” part:
“Japan in surprise trade surplus”
But the under-appreciated element of Japan’s prospect is its overall capital position (“capital account” in the press) in the world economy. 1964 – ~1990 was very, very good for Japan, Inc, and they still have the wealth they collected from the rest of the world working for them (aside from all the infamous colossal malinvestments they’d made of course).
is pretty data-dense and I’ve only skimmed it, but it looks like a good survey of Japan’s immense capital wealth. The last chart, Figure 4, is of special interest.
The question for Japan is going to be the choice between a high-Gini society of haves & have nots or whether it begins to spread the national wealth around a bit more via social spending, like the nordic states do. Currently, Japan (Gini of .33) is closer to the US model (0.38) than the nordic model (0.25).
Politically, the nation is a very conservative country and the “red” street battles of the 1960 and 1970s are a distant memory, so I don’t know which way Japan is going to break on this. The two main political coalitions aren’t that much apart on where they want to take the nation, alas.
“and what economic policy (everywhere) should be aiming primarily to raise.”
Indeed. All that matters for Japan is if it can continue to create more wealth than it consumes. It was fantastically successful at this in the 1960s through 1990s — it had a great hand in inventing and manufacturing the latter half of the 20th century, and profited immensely from this success.
But this global success is hidden from the masses by the rat-race of daily life, and the general capture of mass media and government bureaucracy by very conservative forces.
Japan’s weak yen from the postwar era until the Plaza Accord of 1985 was one way the Japanese citizenry was made to sacrifice to rebuild the country. Japan also seemed to work harder and longer than the rest of the world during this period. We’re now coming to the time when this postwar generation is going to retire on its savings. The political fight now is all about who’s going to pay for their well-earned retirement. The consumption tax idea is pretty much horrible, but “The System” doesn’t have any other options — eg. higher taxes on itself — it wants to give the people.
@ Troy #6
You talk about ‘best scenarios’, and ‘solutions’. You are in some kind of ‘la-la-land’.
Japan is making no efforts to address the problem, which is why it has been allowed to grow to such proportions in the first place.
I don’t have time to deconstruct your whole post, but let’s just take womens participation in the labor force. Japan is not ready, nor willing to make the changes required to incentivize women into the workplace in greater numbers. After all, only recently, an LDP Minister for health literally said that women were ‘just machines for making babies’. Lost cause mate.
As soon as I saw the words ‘Eamonn Fingleton’, I rolled my eyes. Fingleton is a half-informed ‘bluffer’, whose image of Japan is stuck in the 1970’s.
Please read this critique of Fingleton’s asessment, and come back to me after, if you want.
@ Troy #6
Wasn’t this years graduate hiring season the 3rd worst ever?
Please don’t try and tell me that ‘only’ third worst is cause for hope, lol!
Japan is making no efforts to address the problem, which is why it has been allowed to grow to such proportions in the first place.
Japan is not ready, nor willing to make the changes required to incentivize women into the workplace in greater numbers.
That’s just it though. If there is indeed a dire labor shortage coming later this century, Japan does in fact have the latent labor supply to take up the demand. As the old farts in Japan pass on, maybe the next generation (born in the 1960s and later) will be a bit more liberal about addressing Japan’s patriarchy problem. And if not, then the labor shortage will just get worse and put more pressure on the System to reform itself.
LDP Minister for health literally said that women were ‘just machines for making babies’.
Well, for one, that’s not what he said at all.
Please read this critique of Fingleton’s asessment, and come back to me after, if you want.
FWIW the commenter ‘Troy’ at Spike’s site is also me (tho reading my comments on that Fingleton piece I see I got pretty long-winded in places, alas).
Please don’t try and tell me that ‘only’ third worst is cause for hope, lol!
Does Japan have too many people or too few? ISTM if college graduates can’t get the jobs they want, there’s too many people.
I think their economy wedged itself pretty bad in the 1980s as their prosperous baby boom erred in chasing up land values in the bubble-jidai [a formative experience for me as a Japanophile was watching TBS’s “Soredemo ie-wo Kaimashita” in 1991]. On top of that colossal mistake, tons of bad loans on uneconomic ideas were made, and the nation on the whole is still suffering in “deleveraging” from all this malinvestment.
Japan is also suffering from a severe endaka problem, but a too-strong currency is an odd problem for a nation to have!
I think it needs to be emphasized that partially thanks to the strong yen, the current Chinese factory line salary is around 20,000 JPY a month. I don’t see how Japan can keep a single manufacturing job in the face of that reality.
But I think the bigger problem with the Japanese economy is a velocity problem — people don’t have to spend money so they don’t, and save it instead. But depressed consumer spending means fewer jobs for everyone, so you get into a deflationary spiral.
And it is true that the falling number of young people exacerbates this, removing domestic demand-side spending (Japan last experienced a YOY rise in the population of 0-10 year olds in 1976, it’s been all downhill since — in the 1980s this population fell an average of 400,000 each year, in the 1990s it fell 200,000 per year, and the in 200xs it fell 80,000/yr)
I’m not saying these problems are necessarily easy to work through, just that if I were to be Dictator-for-Life of a country in trouble, I’d pick Japan over China or the US, since Japan’s problems are much more solvable than most anyone else in the OECD (for the record I think Canada and Australia will make out better this century than Japan, since they have 1/4 the population yet ~20X the land area to base their economy on).
— Okay, I’m starting to see some of your assumptions here (thanks this time for not burying them in a blizzard of jargon):
1) You are in fact listing some of the problems that we are seeing as making things unsustainable. You are essentially arguing either a) that they are not unsustainable, or b) they are comparatively minor looking at other countries.
2) Regarding a) unsustainable, well, more than two decades of economic stagnation now and long-suffering lifestyles in Japan’s peripheries (e.g., an aging of the workforce out there much faster than the core, depopulation, high costs of living with much lower incomes, having to fill the 3K economic gaps with cheap/slave NJ labor while getting people used to treating NJ badly (as they legally aren’t even considered “laborers”)) tend to make the core (and their cosseted well-paid economic specialists) blind to the malaise, increasing corruption, and suffering outside the rich districts. We have had the argument here that things are (somehow) sustainable, but I think the preponderance of the evidence so far suggests that there will be no change for the better in any foreseeable economic model (as one of those models is what kicked off this blog post).
3) Regarding b) comparatively minor, again, this comparison of bad with bad is not a way to make things better. It is a way to put things into perspective, yes, but it is usually not a road to suggest improvement. Look instead at how other societies are doing it better. And then ask yourself is Japan attempting to do that? In terms of treating people better (immigrants, even its own citizens, e.g, women in the workforce), I don’t see that happening.
4) You say, “Maybe the next generation (born in the 1960s and later) will be a bit more liberal”. Ah yes, the classic “Lag Theory”. I’ve been hearing that for a generation now. It’s a pretty presumptuous way to look at the world — “over time they’ll come to their senses and see things ‘more like us’, in a way we consider more ‘liberal'”. As I’ve argued elsewhere, things have in fact gotten less tolerant in Japan over the last decade. Partially due, I believe, to a society getting older and thus more conservative.
And therein lie the seeds of unsustainability — a lack of flexibility towards considering new ideas for the future. Japan as I see it now isn’t going to make those moves no matter how hard you argue to turn frowns upside down.
Respect to Jim de Griz for taking these bonkers assumptions to task. I’ll try to add some additional points to this post when I have the time.
@Troy and WanderingDave:
What country do you live in?
@Jim Di Griz
I think Troy’s point about the hiring season was: if Japan is in such desperate need of workers, why are young graduates struggling to find decent jobs?
First off, your baby making machines is a 2007 quote.
Second, you seem to expect a top down solution to Japan’s problems, when the reality is much more grassroots. More women are going to (and are) intering the work force by necessity. Two incomes are better than one. Child care? That is being addressed on a area by area level. Community associations are doing more than just organizing garbage. I was one of our community officers in 2009.
Living in the same community for 18 years, I saw the lowest point. No bonuses, people laid off, families devasted. The current situation is miles above what is was 10 years ago. Yes, demographics are important but they tell only a part of the story. Outskirts like Shimane, Tottori, Okinawa…they are shrinking but there are other areas that are vibrant.
My glass is half full.
@ Troy #8
You ask (re; those who are now approaching retirement age), whose going to foot the bill, (and the tax burden, therefore) for their ‘well-earned retirement’?
Why should any of the current youth foot the bill? Those old codgers spent their best years voting for the LDP, and letting them get away with economic suicide. Why should they can any sympathy? They have already enjoyed the best years ever in Japan’s economic history. If they didn’t put anything aside, that’s their look-out, I would say.
Not just that, but having been selfish and short-sighted enough to allow the J-Gov to run up a huge national debt on their behalf (never mind the great-grand children who will be lucky to live above the poverty line when it all comes on top), why shouldn’t the J-Gov just print a load of money to devalue the yen, and make the interest repayments on the borrowing for pension payments manageable (after all, often ignored is the fact that J-Gov borrowing has for the largest part been to cover it’s pension payments, and interest on borrowing payments). de-valuing the yen (a la hyper-inflation) would certainly make a state pension worthless for those ‘poor old showa jidai salarymen’, but who cares? The future of the country is more important. They enjoyed the cream of the good times, now let’s see them ‘ganbare’.
@ Pitarou #13
‘if Japan is in such desperate need of workers, why are young graduates struggling to find decent jobs?’
I never said that Japan was in need of workers. Ask Troy.
But it is important to recognize that as the economy has worsened over the last 20 years, there has been a reduction in graduates being offered full-time salary man positions as companies turn to cheaper temporary workers. For now J-graduates are turning their noses up at these jobs (they’ve had it too good for too long in Japan). They don’t want to be seasonal farm laborers and such, hence the number of Chinese ‘trainees’ doing it for them. And, as we saw after 3/11, the conditions are borderline tolerable (but industries have become cost reliant on them), so when they take off (the crappy job isn’t worth the risk of radioactive contamination), oh how the J-farmers and such moan to the press about ‘disloyal’ NJ! lol!
‘your baby making machines is a 2007 quote.’
My apologies! Clearly 2007 is ancient history, isn’t it? I mean, there can’t be a soul alive today that still has such old fashioned opinions as were held so long ago as ……2007?
I realize that for Americans (having only 200 years of history themselves), that this might seem like ever such a long time ago, but the politician who made the remark is still alive and well. What is more telling though, is that after making the remark, he faced no comeback or censure, and never faced any public outcry. Womens rights have been ever-so-effectively quashed in Japan, haven’t they? Ever tried looking up ‘feministo’ in a Japanese dictionary?
BTW; Half full or half empty is a futile and self serving analogy. It makes no practical difference how you describe half a glass of water. What’s next? Every cloud has a silver lining? Things can only get better? You are partaking in exactly the kind of ‘wishfulness’ (see Max Hastings) that the Japanese are adept at in order to preserve the illusion of the ‘dreamy day’. If it makes anyone sleep better at night, they are part of the problem.
I do try.
By all means, please pile in. I don’t think I can be bothered. Reading a j-newspaper everyday would have been enough for most of them to see the error of their optimistic scenarios.
” Look instead at how other societies are doing it better. And then ask yourself is Japan attempting to do that? In terms of treating people better (immigrants, even its own citizens, e.g, women in the workforce), I don’t see that happening.”
Change generally comes from necessity. I agree that every generation seems to turn conservative (like their parents) when they hit 40, and Japan is still a pretty “insular” place wrt learning from the rest of the world.
What country do you live in?
I live in California (I got to live in Tokyo in my late 20s and early 30s). FWIW, I think it’s a coin-flip whether I head back to Japan later this decade or not.
Why should any of the current youth foot the bill? Those old codgers spent their best years voting for the LDP, and letting them get away with economic suicide. Why should they can any sympathy? They have already enjoyed the best years ever in Japan’s economic history.
While I am highly sympathetic to the view of making the electorate who made all the bad decisions 1985-2000 pay for their decisions, you really can’t punish your parents and grandparents without punishing yourself.
And it’s also debatable whether or not the nation has in fact committed ‘economic suicide’. Japan’s monetary policy has resulted in the nation enjoying a $3 trillion wealth position as a net-creditor country. Divided over the nation’s 30 million seniors, that’s $100,000 per senior.
The yen at 80 is telling us that Japan is still a “going concern” in business-speak.
If they didn’t put anything aside, that’s their look-out, I would say.
Savings is an odd thing. Japan is in fact a ‘nation of savers’. But most of the postal savings money is invested in Japanese government bonds (JGBs), as is the national pension money. So, alas, a valid thing to say is that they’ve been borrowing money — one quadrillion yen soon — from themselves and calling it savings. (The pension fund of Norway has been operated differently — they’ve put their oil money bonanza into global holdings — they have $100,000 per capita of real savings, not their own government’s debt).
But this one quadrillion yen of government debt is in fact deferred consumption — the Japanese people did put this money away instead of spending it.
What’s going to need to happen now is Japan’s domestic savings rate is going to have to turn into higher taxation, so this savings flow changes to tax revenues which then get spent back into the economy via elderly pensions and health care.
This is what I was getting at that elderly pensions are highly stimulative. You can’t get fired from your pension, so pensioners don’t need to “save” their pension like they need to save their wages. This will increase the monetary velocity of the Japanese economy and get more people back to work.
why shouldn’t the J-Gov just print a load of money to devalue the yen, and make the interest repayments on the borrowing for pension payments manageable
They’ll probably end up doing that, yes. With the yen at 80 the technocrats do certainly have plenty of policy headroom to get the yen back to ¥150. They’d have a lot more if & when they get their nuclear plants back online, since a weak yen makes energy imports much more painful.
But a nation can’t inflate away pension burdens.
They enjoyed the cream of the good times, now let’s see them ‘ganbare’.
Japan’s going to have 30M seniors aged 70+ in 2020, and these people vote.
I never said that Japan was in need of workers. Ask Troy.
You have yet to say why Japan is the ‘Titanic’ and what needs to be turned around.
Debito’s post here is talking about Japan’s demographics needing to be reversed for its economy to be “sustainable” again.
I don’t really agree about that, for the reasons given above.
I do agree that Japan is going to have to seriously raise the tax level as a percent of GDP. Right now it’s relatively low:
(I don’t know how accurate that is but by that Japan’s tax level is HALF of Sweden’s)
so this is in fact one policy measure available to the politicians, should they ever decide to grasp the nettle here.
But it is important to recognize that as the economy has worsened over the last 20 years
Japan’s economy has not “worsened” over the last 20 years:
ca. 1990 it simply stopped growing so explosively like it was in the postwar period (~10% pa. growth in the 1960s and ~5% pa. growth in the 1970s & 1980s).
In this interim Japan has grown its current account consistently:
so this is not an economy that’s been falling behind. It’s a national economy that’s winning. That this immense wealth is not being distributed all that well through the polity is a political problem not an economic one.
Clearly 2007 is ancient history, isn’t it? I mean, there can’t be a soul alive today that still has such old fashioned opinions as were held so long ago as ……2007?
I really didn’t want to get into this derail, but the LDP politician did not say women were ‘just machines for making babies’ at all.
He was making the somewhat impolitic analogy that the “capital” for creating new babies is essentially fixed and Japan as a nation cannot increase it.
— I’m going to have to call FOS on the claim of “Japan’s economy has not “worsened” over the last 20 years.” From one of my lectures, click to expand in browser:
This is why so many financial analysts (from abroad in Troy’s case) are able to sell so much financial snake oil to the public. They cherry-pick their stats based upon a conclusion in order to sell an idea, even if it’s in denial of the most basic things that have an impact on people’s lives (in Debito.org’s case, the disenfranchised minorities). If they really want to put their money where their mouth is, I think all financial-analyst types should only be paid the minimum wage so that they can feel the impact of whatever bullshit they’re peddling. Bye, Troy.
“pensions are actually a very good economic stimulus”
Are you serious? On this sentence alone you lose any credibility.
On the matter of economic stimulus, Japan has tried the Keynesian way for 20 years. Massive economic stimulus leading to stagnant economy.
In light of the demographic and economic challenges ahead, it is time for Japan to try a new way: free-trade, small and effective administration, open borders, knowledge-based economy (instead of manufacturing/construction as for now).
— Speaking of credibility, Troy followed up and accused me of “cherry picking” my own data by citing 10 years of IMF data. Spam. (His IP is also listed on spamhaus.org.)
Once I pull the FOS Card and decide a commenter is being more disingenuous than illuminating, I pull the plug on further comments. As I said, “Bye Troy”.
November 2011 preliminary population estimates are now out http://www.stat.go.jp/data/jinsui/pdf/201204.pdf showing a tiny population increase of 1,500. Interestingly, this results from a reduction of 13,500 Japanese and an increase of 15,000 NJ.
However, it seems these estimates are based on adjusting census data for births/deaths and entry/exits of Japanese and NJ with SOR, so such small numbers can’t be accurate and could be skewed depending on how many people are on holiday on the 1st of the month (this along with job changeovers could partly explain the significant monthly fall in the NJ population always seen on 1st January and 1st August). The changes to November seem to fit with the gradual trend of reducing Japanese population and the bounce back in the NJ population following people leaving/not arriving post March 2011. Here are graphs of the monthly population numbers broken down for Japanese http://goo.gl/n7sXs and NJ http://goo.gl/9OtVr
There is also a graph showing the estimated current population on the data link above – worryingly it appears to fall even more over the start of this year as compared with the big drop after March last year.
— I think that measuring the population on a monthly basis is like checking your weight every day. It gets to the point where you become paranoid about eating just because your weight might fluctuate in the wrong direction. Check the population once a year or so to take into account seasonal fluctuations, and leave it at that, I say.
Maybe Troy’s economic facts are correct (I think not, but…), but he fails to take into account that none of this happened ‘suddenly’. It’s been more than 20 years in the making. All the ‘the Japanese can do this, the Japanese can do that’ statements are pointless, since we have seen that there is no desire to address this problem. No public discourse. No political vision. Invested parties digging themselves in. Corporate haves, and disenfranchised have-nots is the future.
I recently watched a BBC News film about the death of the American Dream. We have already witnessed the death of the Japanese Dream; the age of ‘everyone is middle-class’ is history.
Readers might like to do some of their own research on statistics and demographics.
Check the population once a year or so to take into account seasonal fluctuations, and leave it at that, I say.
Agreed – defining the measurement periodicity is a key part of interrogating data and choosing this depends on what effect you are interested in examining. With your weight analogy, daily variation is not really helpful to see how you are progressing – although it could show up that any weight progress made in the week is reduced by those Saturday night binges or for example indicate a short period of illness. Equally, if you want to look at general population decline over time, comparing year-on-year is far more useful; although if you wish to visualize large numbers of one community fleeing the country for a period of a few months before returning gradually, then this would only show up with more frequent sampling.
#@9 Jim Di Griz
Thanks for the link you provide that debunks the author’s charade by revealing his association with the Dead Fukuzawa Society. I just don’t understand why the NYT approved his article in the first place. Assuming that foreign media tend to buy into anything about Japan–and hence vulnerable to gross misinformation and deception made by any Japanophile author like him. I agree with Debito. Anyone trying to sell snake-oil finance to the public resonates with a phony libertarian populist—or Ayn Rand (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand) wannabe—who is trying to sell free market idea for her/his promotion (Question: Is Donald Keene one of those?). Pity their behavior is a product of destructive ideology of free market economy affecting local farming, educational system, and community, as one of my professors at the college clearly articulates in his brilliant work below:
I personally don’t believe Japan is immune to the problems of “economic correctness” described in the book, regarding their history of economic partnership with the US (i.e., Does TPP save Japan out of recession at the costs of local farmers and industrial workers?).
The language is already sinking into their veins as the public is hue and cry over the GOJ’s misguided approach to controversial sales tax hike plan, and J-media’s recent attempt to restrain the free speech on that (see http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fd20120408pb.html).
It’s getting off topic (so Debito, please delete this comment if your wish), but I think it is unfair to portray the libertarian/classical liberal philosophy the way you did. Classical liberals do not support crony/corporate capitalism, restrictions of civic freedoms, etc… Historically, classical liberals (before the term was taken over by Statists/socialists) were standing on the left side of the political spectrum (read Bastiat and his defense of freedom against the conservative order). It is clear for me that Japan is a perfect example of crony capitalism (strong bureaucracy, intricate networks involving big business and politics, etc.).
I seriously doubt Donald Keene is a “phony libertarian”. Based on his track record, I would suggest his views are mostly conservative (but I might be wrong).
Back to topic, the demographic challenges and the sustainability of the social security system (or lack of) have been common knowledge (even for the non-political aware) for two decades… except that it is still a taboo for the mainstream political establishment to challenge established theories.
I’m afraid you are missing the point. Free market ideology employed by libertarians today is not the same as classical liberalism championed by the left. Believe it or not, it is conservatives who have advocated the capitalism under the name of liberating the people from government control. Reagan and Bush the first are pretty good examples of this. And, yes, crony capitalism is an unchanging political climate of Washington and the Wall Street today. (I’m not going to push this further because it will derail from the topic.) Anyway, here’s my point. I’m not saying all business associates, pro-business politicians, and Kasumigaseki bureaus are behaving just like Mitt Romney or free maketers. But the way these people use an economic logic to the detriment of public interests is drawing a similar consequence–the disenfranchisement of working class or specific minorities(i.e., NJ). Note that I qualify my statement to the specific author(s) or who prostitutes one’s skills for a shameless promotion of her/his ideas in a language we commonly use for discussion right here. Typically, they are limited those who are lucky enough to get the full privileges to enjoy consumption and profits in Japan for many years. It’s sad to see these heartless people ganging up on NJ who are bullied by the team-J (and gangs) for being ‘foreigner.’
@ Loverilakkuma #27
‘those who are lucky enough to get the full privileges to enjoy consumption and profits in Japan for many years. It’s sad to see these heartless people ganging up on NJ who are bullied by the team-J (and gangs) for being ‘foreigner.’’
Oh that so neatly brings us back to Donald ‘I feel Japanese in my heart’ Keene! Who says that Japans problems aren’t connected by the same people?
@28 Jim Di Griz
“Oh that so neatly brings us back to Donald ‘I feel Japanese in my heart’ Keene!”
Yes, that’s how the folks here see the logic. I don’t have any problem with that. He’s the one on the radar. Honestly, his public appearance looks still new to me, so I’m not 100% sure which ideological camp he exactly belongs to. But I’m sure we’ll see, sooner or later— especially if he responds to Debito’s recent article in JT.
— I will be surprised if he does. I don’t think he feels much connection or responsibility to the NJ communities here at all. After all, he “understands Japan”, unlike the NJ he keeps contrasting himself to. But we’re digressing.
@ Loverilakkuma #29
I don’t think that Don will respond. I don’t think he deigns to read any Japanese newspapers- the only Japan he’s interested in is what he imagines the past to have been like. In any event, I suspect that if it was brought to his attention, he would drop a word in someone’s ear, and the word would get passed to whoever owns the JT, and they in turn would tell the editor to not let things like that happen again (because it causes embarrassment for the owner, or some such Japanese ‘naiatsu’ 内圧). It would all be done behind the scenes with veiled threats and pressure as a favor to Keene’s powerful J-friends (you know, the ones who can disregard all normal processes and speed up his ‘red carpet’ naturalization).
BTW, Don’t you think that it’s pretty obvious what camp Keene is in by now? What with all the NJ bashing, I would have thought that question was effectively answered.