Happy 2024: Japan Times: “Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100”, says private panel of business interests. 24 years later, no new ideas, since it calls for rises in birthrates, not immigration, yet again.



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Hi Blog. HNY and AkeOme. Last month was a year-end break for the Shingetsu News Agency and my Visible Minorities column, so let me open 2024 with yesterday’s JT article showing just how much things have not changed for the past quarter century. Article first, then my comment:


Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100: panel
The Japan Times. BY KAZUAKI NAGATA, STAFF WRITER, Jan 10, 2024

PHOTO CAPTION: Akio Mimura, honorary chairman of Nippon Steel and head of a private panel focused on depopulation, submits the group’s proposal to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Tuesday. | KYODO

(Ed: This actually made a pretty big domestic news splash.  See all the headlines via Google here: 人口戦略会議. You can also see word about this even on the PM’s official website, but in the true spirit of government openness it only offers photo-ops with no way to actually read the proposal or see who’s on the panel.)

Amid concerns over rapid depopulation, a private panel has proposed that Japan should aim to have a stable population of 80 million by 2100 in order to maintain economic growth.

Last April, the government released an estimate that the population would be reduced by half to about 63 million in 2100, with 40% of people expected to be 65 or older.

Japan has wrestled with the issue of a declining birthrate for decades, but the situation is about to “change drastically,” with the country now entering a serious phase of population decline, the panel, headed by Nippon Steel honorary chairman Akio Mimura and consisting of 28 members including prominent academics and business leaders, said Tuesday.

The country’s population in 1930 was about 63 million, but the proportion of those 65 years or older was just 4.8% then, according to the panel, which submitted its proposal to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida the same day.

To avoid such a future, Japan needs to slow down the pace of the decline and eventually stop it, the panel said, adding that government strategy should focus on stabilizing the population at around 80 million by 2100. As of last month, Japan’s population was estimated to be 124 million.

The panel carried out several simulations and argued that if the country raised the total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime — to 1.6 by around 2040, 1.8 by around 2050 and eventually 2.07 by 2060, it could maintain a population of around 80 million by 2100.

In 2022, Japan’s fertility rate fell for the seventh straight year to a record-tying low of 1.26. A rate of 2.07 is considered to be necessary to keep the population stable.

“This is not an easy task, but it is by no means impossible if full-scale efforts are launched to fight the declining birthrate,” the panel said, highlighting that it would take decades for such a strategy to start to bear fruit and that it was inevitable for the population to be smaller than it is today.

Still, if Japan can maintain a population of 80 million and also boost productivity, then the country would be able to see annual economic growth of about 0.9% from 2050 to 2100, according to the panel.

In tackling the issue, the government should establish a new committee of experts directly under the prime minister that would oversee the planning and implementation of the population strategy, the panel suggested.

The panel said one major problem was that the government and the private sector had failed to share sufficient information with the public about the gravity of rapid depopulation and the importance of preventing it.

“It is unfoundedly optimistic to say that ‘The population may be dwindling, but Japanese society will continue as before,’” the panel said.

Measures implemented by the government up until now to combat the declining birthrate may have produced some results, but they have been mostly “one-off and stopgap,” so they have not been enough to turn around the trend, the panel added.

Kishida has made tackling the country’s plummeting birthrate a top policy item and pledged to introduce “unprecedented steps” to head off the severe long-term economic impact. He has said that the government will raise the budget for child care-related policies over the next three years, with an extra ¥3.6 trillion ($24.8 billion) to be spent each year. ENDS


COMMENT FROM DEBITO: There is nothing new under the sun when you have the same old people retreading the same old shinola to the same perpetually-elected party in power.  Getting all these people together to wish for a skypie solution of increasing birthrates (while somehow also boosting productivity) is silly, as it has already been proposed multiple times over the decades without success.  This is no way to craft public policy that actually solves a problem.

Indicatively, *once again* this report makes no mention of immigration, despite both the UN and then-PM Obuchi agreeing as far back as the *YEAR 2000* (see below) that immigration is inevitable to keep the economy going.  But as we saw afterwards in 2009, xenophobic politics intervened, and even Japan’s demographers are forbidden to mention foreign inflows as part of Japan’s domestic demographic science. (See My JT column on that here.)

A further note:  Whenever you have business interests involved (as if they’re any experts on demographic engineering), the primary concern will be about business interests, i.e., profits and cheap labor.  Now remember what the likes of elite business lobby Keidanren wrought by bringing in foreign labor on exploitative revolving-door visa regimes since 1991 (the “Trainee” slave-labor program, for example).  Allowing the grubby little hands of Japan’s business lobbies any more input into future policy drives only guarantees more inhumanity, because with population drops and an elderly society come labor shortages.  Who will fill them?  Robots; but robots don’t pay taxes into the rickety national pension system.  So foreigners.  Hence business interests will only continue to advocate importing labor without ever letting foreign workers become permanent Japanese residents.

In conclusion, a quarter-century later nothing has been learned.  Just keep on saying the same old shinola and watch as Japan’s demographic juggernaut bankrupts the country.  As long foreseen.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

UPDATE:  Members of the Jinkou Senryaku Kaigi, courtesy of JK.  (Source is here, pg. 14)


Excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism” (Second Edition 2022) on this subject, Chapter 10, including footnotes:

Figure 10.1 was data from the First Edition, which indicated Japan’s economy had, from the bursting of its economic “bubble” in 1993 through the year 2011, shrunk by nearly half a percent every year on average compared to its developed-country or regional brethren. As of this Second Edition, now incorporating 26 years of data from 1993 to 2019 (before the Covid Pandemic hit), Figure 10.2 shows that Japan is no longer in an average economic contraction, but its GDP per capita has grown on average by less than a percent per year, still easily underperforming most of the same select countries. (I surmise that Japan’s major growth industry, tourism to Japan, has significantly affected these numbers; as noted in Chapter Eight, tourism’s contribution to Japan’s total GDP has expanded from 1.7 to 2 percent since 2010. This underscores Japan’s need to avoid “Japanese Only” signs and rules.)

It is not clear that even these low growth rates are sustainable, given Japan’s perpetual demographic crisis. According to the most recent GOJ figures as this book went to press (June 30, 2021), Japan’s population continues to decrease, as its birthrate has long been below replacement levels, reaching the lowest on record in 2019 before being further worsened by the 2020 Covid Pandemic.[i] The number of (Japanese citizen—sic) children under age fifteen has dropped to record lows for 40 consecutive years, representing the lowest population percentage amongst major countries with populations of at least 40 million.[ii] Japan’s population has also been shrinking since 2011, and from the current level of 125.3 million (including the rising number of foreign residents), [iii] dropping by close to one million per year; at this rate it is projected to drop below 100 million by 2049.[iv]

Meanwhile, Japan’s working-age population is forecast to fall by nearly half from 81.7 million in 2010 to 44.2 million by 2060.[v] In terms of people above a “reasonable working age” of 65, the projected elderly but not yet infirm (ages 65-74) are projected to be at around 22% of Japan’s population; if you include all elderly and infirm (65 and up), this will comprise nearly 36% of Japan’s total population by 2050.[vi] Thus, with Japan’s demographic pyramid being top-heavy and projected to have one of the world’s highest median ages,[vii] the elderly and pensioners will soon outnumber young pension contributors, putting the solvency of Japan’s social security pension plans into jeopardy.[viii](Note that this is not unexpected: the GOJ and the UN both forecast this happening as early as the year 2000, when the UN advised Japan to immediately start bringing in more than a half million foreign residents per year.)[ix]

[i] “An uphill battle to reverse the falling birthrate.” Japan Times, June 4, 2020; “The COVID-19 Pandemic is Accelerating Japan’s Population Decline: A Statistical Analysis.” Nippon.com, May 25, 2021.

[ii] “Japan’s child population falls to record low 16.17 million.” Japan Times/Jiji Press, May 4, 2015; “Japan’s child population hits record low after 40 years of decline.” Kyodo News, May 4, 2021.

[iii] www.stat.go.jp/english/data/jinsui/tsuki/index.html.

[iv] “The COVID-19 Pandemic is Accelerating Japan’s Population Decline: A Statistical Analysis.” Nippon.com, May 25, 2021.

[v] “Japan Cabinet minister wary of opening ‘Pandora’s Box’ of immigration.” Japan Times, May 13, 2015; “Japan’s Population Falls for Ninth Straight Year.” Nippon.com, April 30, 2020.

[vi]Kōreisha jinkō (65-74, 75 ijō) to sono wariai” [Population and proportion of elderly (65-74, 75+)]. Shūkan Ekonomisuto, January 15, 2008: 16.

[vii] “A declining Japan loses its once-hopeful champions.” Washington Post, October 27, 2012, particularly the graphic “As Japan’s population ages, optimism wanes.” More current statistics show that South Korea may overtake Japan in terms of highest median age by 2050, but Japan will still remain in second place. Seewww.statista.com/statistics/673014/top-ten-countries-with-highest-projected-median-age/ (accessed June 2, 2021).

[viii] One often-touted solution to the demographic crisis is automation, i.e., getting robots into fields that require elderly care, such as hospitals and care centers. See for example GOJ policy trial balloons floated at “Better than people: Why the Japanese want their robots to act more like humans.” Economist (London), December 20, 2005; “Government tackles population decline.” Yomiuri Shinbun, August 26, 2014, archived at www.debito.org/?p=12609; “Aging Japan: Robots may have role in future of elder care.” Reuters, March 27, 2018; et al. However, robots do not pay taxes, so without young people paying into pension plans for the current elderly, I do not see how automation will make up the financial shortfall when the young taxpayers reach retirement.

[ix] Arudou 2006c, which notes, “As far back as 2000, under the Obuchi Administration, ‘The Prime Minister’s Commission on Japan’s Goals in the 21st Century’ (as well as the UN) famously advised Japan to import around 600,000 people per annum. This would maintain Japan’s tax base and ameliorate the effects of record-high longevities and record-low birthrates contributing to an aging population.” [Emphasis added.]



Here’s one domestic news article not behind paywall on this:

読売新聞 2024/01/09 17:28
 提言では、人口減に歯止めがかからない場合、「どのような重大な事態が起きるか正確に理解することが重要」として、「超高齢化や地方消滅で(社会の)進歩が止まる」と深刻さを強調。2100年の人口を8000万人で安定させる「定常化戦略」と、小さい人口規模でも多様性と成長力を確保する「 強靱きょうじん 化戦略」の一体的な推進を訴えた。

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20 comments on “Happy 2024: Japan Times: “Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100”, says private panel of business interests. 24 years later, no new ideas, since it calls for rises in birthrates, not immigration, yet again.

  • This is hilarious, magically raising womens fertility rate up to 2.07 and simultaneously raising productivity, while inflation gets worse and worse every year and Japanese wages keep stagnating.

    It makes perfect sense if you‘re an LDP oyaji though. They still live in the 80s, so they think that every family has huge amounts of disposable income and only the men need to work (women belong at home in the kitchen anyway). Everything makes sense once you put yourself in their shoes. Unfortunately the world is bound to real life rules, not some oyaji phantasy, so naturally this plan will fail epically and probably turn Japan into a second world country.

  • But in the true spirit of government openness it only offers photo-ops with no way to actually read the proposal or see who’s on the panel.

    You’ll pardon the pun, but I got a ‘HIT’ when searching for this information courtesy of the Hokkaido Intellect Tank:


    At the bottom of this page, you will see the following links to PDFs which contain the proposal as well as a list of the panel members:


    —- Thanks for this!

  • Indicatively, *once again* this report makes no mention of immigration

    Well, actually, it does. In the summary version (gaiyōban) on page 12, there’s these blurbs in bold underline:

    An “immigration policy” should not be taken to supplement the falling population.

    Formulation of a comprehensive strategy for permanent residence for foreigners centered on labor is a pressing matter.

    Foreigners accepted for labor should be “highly skilled or professional”.

    Careful consideration needs to be given to non-highly skilled foreigners.

    Hence business interests will only continue to advocate importing labor without ever letting foreign workers become permanent Japanese residents.

    Out of the 28 members, I count 9 business people and 9 university professors, so at least the panel isn’t a Keidanren ‘Who’s Who’.

    It’s disappointing (but not surprising) that cold water got poured on establishing an immigration policy.

    Also, at least the subject of permanent residency was mentioned.

    In conclusion, a quarter-century later nothing has been learned.

    Well, I would say that there has been some progress: the panel of experts realizes what needs to happen w/r/t NJ being part of the solution to depopulation, but won’t throw their collective weight behind recommending an immigration policy.

    —- Thank you for the corrections. I made my assessments based upon the articles about the report, which I commented on after conducting a nonexhaustive search for the report (which you later found, thanks). They bleached out the nuances you mention. Thank you again.

    • You bet.

      Now that the details of the panel’s proposal are out in the open, it seems to me that advocating against an immigration policy (!) is tantamount to hammering the final nail in Japan’s coffin, but I’d like to get your take on on their recommendations.

  • Some great comments above, esp. @Niklas.
    But yeah, when myths and narratives collide wit reality, the myths and narratives ‘must’ be protected, so nothing will change, ‘magical thinking’ women’s birth rates all they want (after all, if it was THAT easy, why didn’t they just proclaim ‘birth rates will rise’ 30 years ago?).
    Simply put, it’s just another expression of the ‘ganbaru’ in the face of failure mentality that we see from elementary school, that leads to doubling down on failure in adult life instead of critically reviewing your own performance and making changes required to achieve goals (after all, ‘change’ is a dirty word in Japan).
    But of course, choosing to do NOTHING is still making a choice to ignore reality.
    And all this time spent navel-gazing just is more time that Japan becomes a less attractive option for NJ workers.
    How’s the standard of living and quality of life for the ippanjin these days? They’re not getting any Ginza steakhouse dinners…
    All they got left that’s not ‘rock-bottom’ is the myth that they can look down their noses at NJ. Perhaps the erai-hito have to keep immigration off the table lest they open up and no one comes?
    Or even worse- NJ come and complain about how impoverished the place is?

    • @JDG, “How impoverished the place is” https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20210128/p2a/00m/0na/043000c

      Sad article, but certain uniquely Japanese traits making it worse (too proud to ask for help, Sekuhara in exchange for being hired, offers gutlessly cancelled at the last minute by text, etc).

      My own anecdote was after some time abroad, coming back to Tokyo from China around the New Year and seeing how poorly dressed, dour and miserable looking people were, no more Armani or LV, it honestly could have been a second tier city anywhere in North East Asia.

      And, this

      Exploitation aside, the factories hiring these “trainees” don’t seem to be doing so well themselves. Shrinking economy.

    • “Although Japan appears prosperous from overseas, it has the second highest poverty rate in the G7” Food Bank Azabu….


      It seems the middle class has been or is effectively being squeezed out. I do recall how tax rates for someone earning 2m a year to 7m a year were the same and thinking that’s a big gap in wages and yet all paying the same tax rate….

      • Well, in exactly the same way that the Brits ‘cost of living crisis’ is forcing them to see how far they get eating ‘sovereignty’, I’m watching with a certain degree of Schadenfreude as Japanese people who gushed over ‘Abenomics’ 🙄 now get the society they voted for.
        At every step they had a choice, and as the article @Niklas just posted, they chose to deny reality, remain willfully ignorant, abscond from responsibility, and indulge in magical thinking.
        It’s not working out is it? Bummer that.

        • I respectfully don’t like the comparison so much because 1. the UK has laws against racism and frequently enforces them, zealously so in some cases, and lots of immigrants and 2. At least the UK doesn’t always do what uncle Sam tells them to do, unlike Japan, with Obama’s refusal to negotiate with Hatoyama regarding the Okinawa bases thus essentially crippling Japan’s emerging 2 party democracy at birth, and 3. People voted for Brexit for multiple reasons and it resulted in something tangible and 4. The cost of living crisis is more about Ukraine and the current inept Tory Govt. ( an insult (derived from the Middle Irish word tóraidhe, modern Irish tóraí, meaning “outlaw”, “robber”, from the Irish word tóir, )
          Whereas “Abenomics”is just another J-buzzword with little substance to it like the 3rd arrow “Growth Strategy” but lets not mention the Elephantine Gaijin in the Genkan, the “Imin” word.

          I get youre saying “Brexit” was a similar buzzword but it was a fairly even split and I wish Cameron had said it had to be a larger majority but I still would argue the UK clearly has too much illegal immigration while Japan does not have enough immigration at all, and therefore comparing a democracy to a post- fascist one party pseudo-democracy like Japan, Singapore or Russia is somewhat inappropriate, with respect.

          It always bemuses me that Japanese people get worked up at things of such little import or tiny change, recalling Koizumi and his attempts to nationalize the Post Office.
          Wow, what a revolution.

          — Wow, this was a jumbled post. Let’s focus a bit more next time.

  • I mean, seriously, where is this Japanese ‘miracle at Haneda’ Sully-san? No where to be seen! His face should be all over the media and he should be a household name as JAL uses him to reassure customers that JAL training is exemplary. And yet….
    Of the three pilots on board the JAL flight, one has reported post-accident that he ‘saw something concerning’ prior to the crash but failed to mention it. I guess he wasn’t the Captain so he couldn’t speak up in front of a superior.
    And the hero captain was the last to evacuate 18 mins after the crash. Why did evacuation take so long? The ‘rules’ say that CAs can’t open the doors until the captain tells them, despite telling him an engine was on fire.
    If you know Japan and its society and corporate culture, then you can imagine what happened. The captain was spending his 18 minutes making sure the flight crew weren’t going to put his head on the chopping block maybe, and the real heroes, the Cabin Attendants are left anonymous because they saved hundreds of lives, but they broke cardinal rules;
    1. Women who ignored male superiors.
    2. Women who ignored ‘rules’.
    3. Women who used their initiative.

    If you know Japan, you know how well that would go down.
    Much better to credit Japanese societal norms for the ‘miracle’ and reinforce myths rather than attempt to accurately describe what happened. Just like Fukushima.
    Listen to the audio recording of the Air Traffic Controller and both aircrews speaking English- you’ll never fly again.

    —- Let’s have some links to sources.

    • I would like links to that audio recording too. But as the Air Asia crash was caused by incorrect use of phrasal verbs between an Indonesian pilot and French Co Pilot (“Pull down” “What, the curtains?” – “Lower the nose” is the correct aviation parlance), I can imagine it in advance. Tangent but when Japanese universities are paying a quarter of other Asian universities for full time English for Special Purposes such as Aviation, no wonder the level is so low. Plus of course, they tend to goof off during J-university anyway.

      -I guess he wasn’t the Captain so he couldn’t speak up in front of a superior.

      This has happened. A Korean flight had the exact same scenario. Due to Confucian Confusion, the co pilot didnt think it was his place to correct the pilot …..

      Japanese culture is also mentioned as similar (ha!). https://thediplomat.com/2013/07/asiana-airlines-crash-a-cockpit-culture-problem/

      The deferential respect that is de rigueur in Korea’s apparently über-Confucian social strata was readily apparent in the infamous Korean Air crash that occurred in Guam in 1997, when Flight 801 smashed into a hill, killing 228 of 254 passengers on board a Boeing 747. Another case in 1999, wherein junior officers were seemingly too timid to voice their concerns to the captain in time to avert disaster, occurred near London.

    • Andrew in Saitama says:

      I’m sure that Zion Suzuki might have a few thoughts… Japanese-ness also being determined by whether or not you block those shots at goal.

    • I like to think its karma or comeuppance for not accepting Ariana Miyamoto as Miss Japan, as did actually have one “ethnically Japanese” parent.

      “The reaction to Shiino’s victory echoes the firestorm that surrounded Ariana Miyamoto, the daughter of a Japanese mother and African-American father, who represented Japan in the Miss Universe pageant in 2015.”

      But some didn’t. So now you got someone who is completely Caucasian representing Japan. How do you like those apples, Nihonjinron wacists?

      For years Japan has been claiming non Japanese nationals with some Japanese heritage like Brit Ishiguro Kazuo or disgustingly, Alberto Fujimori.

      Shoe on other foot moment. Karma indeed.

  • When they’re not training officers of the Myanmar Army (you know, the army that’s committing atrocities against the Rohingya people), senior Japanese army officers (no semantics please- Neo Confucian style Rectification of Names is required here!) are ‘taking the afternoon off’ (I thought Kishida just said that this is the ‘most severe security environment in Japan’s history’, but whatever, senior staff take the afternoon off) to visit Yasukuni where over 1,600 convicted war criminals are enshrined.


    Who remembers when the commander of the Japanese Air Force got fired for writing essays about dropping atom bombs on America? You must remember that guy, he’s married to the daughter of the APA hotel chain, where every room is stocked with war crime denial reading material.
    Funny how the US Congress decided NOT to sell Japan the F-22 stealth fighter right after that came out, isn’t it?

    Japan wants its imperial era failed ideology superiority myths, but at the same time needs NJ to drive the tokyo busses now. What will happen?

  • Another earthquake, another fake news about foreign crime „gangs“ comitting crimes.


    When will the national government do something about such things? You can literally be sued for libel if you leave a bad review about a restaurant on Google, but for things like this there is no lawsuit and no punishment. Best they can do is send a retired police officer to dispel the rumors, which is not working according to the surveys. So even 100 years after the Great Kanto Earthquake Japan didn‘t learn anything. Amazing. Where are the articles that claimed that Japan is more diverse and more accepting now, because they have a Black woman play tennis and a few people born outside Japan who play rugby?


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