Japan faces a critical juncture as it announces that over 10% of its citizens are now 80 or older, accentuating its ongoing demographic crisis marked by rapid aging and a declining birthrate. Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications data reveals that those aged 65 and above, the elderly demographic, now comprise an unprecedented 29.1% of the population, solidifying Japan’s global lead in elderly population percentage. Respect for the elderly underscores these challenges. Amid a shrinking workforce and a persistently low birth rate since the 1980s, concerns about funding pensions and healthcare for an aging population grow due to more deaths than births. The nation’s remarkable life expectancy exacerbates the issue. To address labor shortages and reinvigorate the economy, Japan’s government encourages seniors and stay-at-home mothers to reenter the workforce, resulting in a record 9.12 million elderly employees, constituting over 13% of the national workforce, per the internal affairs ministry.
Despite these initiatives, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has issued a stark warning, stating that Japan stands at the precipice of being unable to sustain essential social functions. He emphasized that immediate action to support childrearing is crucial, underscoring its status as the government’s top priority. This demographic challenge echoes across neighboring countries like China, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan, all grappling with similar issues surrounding birth rates and population aging. The pressure is mounting on governments to find solutions that strike a balance between the needs of an aging society and the imperative to encourage younger generations to have more children.