For 2019 Japan’s population declined by 512,000, the latest sign of the country’s increasing demographic challenges due to declining births (less than 900,000 in 2019, the lowest figure since 1874) and increasing deaths (1.4 million in 2019, the highest since the end of World War II).
Fewer births mean there will be fewer young people entering the workforce to replace retiring workers and support them as they age. This “poses a serious threat to Japan’s economic vitality and the security of its social safety net.”
Moreover, there is no anticipated end to Japan’s declining population. Its “government estimates that the population could shrink by around 16 million people — or nearly 13 percent — over the next 25 years.”
To try to meet this challenge the Japanese government has attempted to increase the fertility rate “by increasing incentives for parents to have more children and reducing obstacles that might discourage those who want to.” But so far that has not been successful for at least the following reasons:
- First, “marriage is on the decline. The number of marriages dropped by 3,000 year-on-year to 583,000 [in 2019], part of a steep decline over the last decade.”
- Second, “more people in Japan are putting off childbirth — or not having children at all — either to take advantage of economic opportunities or because they worry that economic opportunities do not exist and feel that they cannot afford children.”
- Third, parents with younger children face difficult challenges. “Demand for day care in the country far outstrips supply, making it difficult for working women to juggle careers and children. And working men who want to take advantage of the country’s generous paternity leave can find themselves stigmatized by an entrenched cultural belief that a man’s place is in the office, not in the home.”
As noted in another post, Japan is attempting to increase the number of immigrants, contrary to long-standing Japanese norms against immigration. It also is promoting the use of robots to supplement its shrinking workforce.
Other countries are facing similar problems. South Korea has an even lower birth rate than Japan. And China and the U.S. also have declining birth rates.
 Dooley, Japan Shrinks by 500,000 People as Births Fall to Lowest Number Since 1874 (Dec. 24, 2019) See also Japan Shows Why U.S. Needs More Immigrants, dwkcommentaries.com (Sept. 1, 2019).
 Japan Implements New Law Allowing Increased Immigration, dwkcommentaries.com Sept. 15, 2019).
 Impact of Declining, Aging Rural Populations, dwkcommentaries.com (May 22, 2019); Other Factors Favoring More U.S. Immigration, dwkcommentaries.com (May 17, 2018); The Importance of a Growing U.S. Population, dwkcommentaries.com (Mar. 27, 2017).