Should Japan increase its birthrate?

Making Japan more family friendly will help regain its social and economic stability

Mina, Writer

Imagine living in a future Japan with close to half its population over the age of 65. It is estimated that as high as 40% of Japan’s population will be 65 or older by 2060. The fertility rate of Japan has fallen to a record low of 1.42 in 2014. It is a growing concern for almost all Japanese citizens that the fertility rate is decreasing while the elderly population is increasing. This influences health care, elderly care, and economic growth in Japan. If this imbalance continues, it is estimated by the government that by 2060, Japan’s population will shrink to a meager 87 million from its current size of 127 million. It is further estimated that as high as 40 percent of the population would be 65 or older according to The Economist. This would not only be disastrous for Japan’s social security but it would also be economically detrimental as it will diminish Japan’s capacity on the world stage.

Although immigration seems like a valid solution, the Japanese public generally does not support this solution and lean more towards improving domestic social policies. Despite Japan’s progressive stand in the world, only around two percent of residents in Japan are foreigners according to the Financial Times. In a 2010 Japanese General Social Surveys, 37 percent of the respondents were “for” increase in the number of foreign residents, whereas 63 percent of respondents were “against” it. Furthermore, in a recent government survey, only 12 percent of the respondents felt that there should be more foreign workers. The respondents thus expressed a rather negative view of increasing the foreign population in their communities.

Tokyo lacks sufficient day care facilities. // CC Search

To ensure a stable future for Japan, many believe that Japan, specifically Tokyo, should make its policies and society more family friendly. Dr. Ryuichi Kaneko said, “Unless young people have bright prospects for the future, they will not be keen to get married and have a child.” Without any policy reforms, Japan’s future seems grim. Tokyo could be made more family friendly by promoting women’s participation in the workforce which can be incentivised by improving quality and increasing daycares, creating more family friendly working environments in companies, increasing the percentage paid during paid maternity leaves, and encouraging the young population to vote. This will eventually increase women’s participation in the labour force to compensate for the declining youth in the workforce.

By amending domestic social policies, Japan will be able to maintain its high economic and social status in the world without having to make changes to its immigration policy.