How Japan’s Fukushima disaster may exacerbate population woes

Monday, August 15, 2011
By Paul Martin

Japan’s aging population is resulting in a quickly shrinking workforce and low prospects for growth. Engaging women in the workforce more fully could help, but there’s cultural resistance.

By Gavin Blair

This week Japan announced that its population has fallen for the second year in a row, which – along with a shrinking workforce – will pose huge challenges for its economy and society.

While these trends were set before the triad of disasters began with the March 11 earthquake, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster may exacerbate them.

“Unless the Japanese workforce makes some huge gains in productivity – and Japanese workers are already very productive – there are no prospects for growth in the domestic economy,” says Jo McBride, head of the Japanese Pension Industry Database.

The population fell by 122,679 to 126,230,625 people in the year to March 31, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The number of deaths last year numbered 1,212,094, while births totaled 1,065,909.

The figures were not updated for Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures, as those areas hardest-hit by the March disasters weren’t surveyed. When the 22,000-some deaths from the earthquake and tsunami are factored in, the actual decline will be larger.

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