TOKYO: While India has become the most populous country in the world, overtaking China, Japan is struggling with its low numbers.
Now things have come to such a pass that Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had to admit recently that the country’s low birth rate and aging population pose an urgent risk to society. To address this issue, Kishida has announced setting up of a new government agency.
Come April and a new Children and Families Agency will be set up in Japan to support parents and ensure the “sustainability” of the world’s thirdlargest economy. “Focusing attention on policies regarding children and child-rearing is an issue that cannot wait and cannot be postponed,” Kishida told lawmakers in a policy address marking the start of a new parliament session.
He added that he eventually wants the government to double its spending on child-related programs. Birth rates are declining in many developed countries, but in Japan the issue is particularly acute because it has the world’s second-highest proportion of people aged 65 and over, after the tiny state of Monaco, according to World Bank data.
“The number of births dropped below 800,000 last year, according to estimates. Japan is standing on the verge of whether we can continue to function as a society,” Kishida said. “We must build a childfirst social economy to reverse the (low) birth rate,” he urged.
Japan has a population of 125 million and has long struggled with how to provide for its fastgrowing number of elderly residents. Birth rates are slowing in many countries including Japan’s closest neighbors, due to factors including rising living costs, more women entering the workforce and people choosing to have children later. Official data showed last week that China’s population shrank in 2022, for the first time in more than six decades.