The Independent’s Business Insider article via Andy Yan describes the increasing aging population of Japan, called by economists as a “demographic time bomb.” With little consumer spending the economy has shrunk and fewer people are having children, while people are living longer. With a population of 127 million, 26 per cent are seniors, roughly the same percentage as Canada will experience in the next two decades.
The Insider identifies several trends in Japan becoming a senior society. More adult diapers are sold annually than baby diapers since 2011. While annual births were over one million since 1899, that number started to decline in 2016. “Ubasaute”, the practice of bringing senior family members with dementia to charities or hospitals has commenced, when family members can no longer provide the care needed. While the numbers of this abandonment are still relatively low compared to the size of the population, it illustrates the desperation of families looking to cover the cost of care.
A surprising one-fifth of all Japanese crime, largely shoplifting and petty theft is done by seniors. While crime rates have fallen prisons have become nursing homes where seniors are assisted in day-to-day activities by prison guards. It would be usual for a family to take care of an elderly relative once released from prison but the care and keep for a senior can often be more comforting and familiar within the highly organized institutional setting of a prison.
Japan’s population projection. Source: Wikipedia
With a stringent immigration policy and very few refugees allowed, Japan could lose 34 per cent of its population by 2100. Government data suggests that by 2060 nearly 40 percent of the population will be over 65 years of age. It’s a sobering look at the importance of immigration to countries with a low birth rate, and offers one more reason to enhance policy supportive of families and children in our cities, to enrich diversity in age groups, backgrounds, and skill sets. It is our way forward.