Japan confronts a new reality…becoming a nation of the elderly

Average age of workers in this mountain village restaurant is 70

…This dynamic is happening all over Japan as the birth rate continues its decades-long decline. The country’s population peaked in 2010, at 128 million. Now it’s less than 125 million and projected to keep shrinking over the next four decades. At the same time, Japanese people are living longer—87.6 years for women and 81.5 years for men, on average. Except for the tiny principality of Monaco, Japan’s population is now the oldest in the world.

The numbers, though stark, don’t convey how profoundly this demographic shift is playing out day to day. The increasingly disproportionate mix of more and more seniors and fewer and fewer young people is already altering every aspect of life in Japan, from its physical appearance to its social policies, from business strategy to the labour market, from public spaces to private homes. Japan is becoming a country designed for and dominated by the old…

Japan’s path foreshadows what’s coming in many areas of the world. China, South Korea, Italy, and Germany are on a similar trajectory; so too is the United States, although at a slower pace. Five years ago, the world reached an ominous milestone: For the first time in history, adults 65 and older outnumbered children under five years old.

If Japan is any guide, ageing will change the fabric of society in ways both obvious and subtle. It will run up a huge bill that governments will struggle to pay. Meeting the challenge won’t be easy, but the future isn’t necessarily all downhill. Japan’s experience, with its characteristic attention to detail and design, suggests extreme ageing—a world in which an increasing share of the population is old—may inspire an era of innovation.

I don’t doubt the Japanese will get it right. Workable, functional, eventually meeting all critical standards global society is capable of. I’m not so confident about the GOUSA. Not with our out-of-date politicians in place…beholden to 19th Century standards. Which start off…your most important task is to get re-elected. Then (maybe), you start to consider the needs of the folks who elected you.

One thought on “Japan confronts a new reality…becoming a nation of the elderly

  1. Michelle Meaders says:

    That’s what happens when you don’t allow immigration. There are millions of young refugees, now living in misery, who could fill the spaces in countries. The US used to allow millions of them, and they mostly adapted well when allowed to. They worked so hard, and brought so much cultural richness!

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