Japan is grappling with an escalating population crisis as the number of nationals has declined by over 800,000 in the past year, similar to trends seen in other East Asian countries. As of January 1, Japan’s total population stood at 125.4 million, with a significant increase of over 10% in foreign residents, while Japanese residents decreased by 800,523, marking the 14th consecutive year of decline. For the first time, all prefectures across Japan witnessed a decrease in the number of Japanese nationals. However, Tokyo experienced a slight overall population increase due to the rise in foreign residents. A record-high number of deaths at 1.56 million outpaced the number of births at just 771,801 newborns, adding to the challenges posed by a shrinking workforce and a growing elderly population.

Japan’s population has been declining since the 1980s, with a fertility rate of 1.3, well below the stable rate of 2.1 required without immigration. Nearby countries like China, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan face similar challenges, striving to encourage more children amid rising living costs and social issues. To address the population decline, Japan has aimed to attract more foreign residents and workers in recent years. Despite progress in creating new visa categories, the COVID-19 pandemic stalled many efforts as the country closed its borders and imposed lockdowns. A Tokyo-based research organization stressed the need for about four times as many foreign workers by 2040 to achieve economic goals. However, achieving this requires creating a supportive environment for migrant workers and fostering social change to be more accepting of foreigners.