Ms. Masako Mori, an upper house lawmaker, former minister, and an advisor to Japan’s Prime Minister warned in an interview in Tokyo, the capital city of Japan will vanish into thin air if timely interventions are not introduced to help the birth rates of the country.
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Demographic Trends of Japan
On 28th February 2023, Japan announced that birth rates in the country last year plummeted to a record low, one of the world’s lowest. According to the report, the last year of 2022 witnessed about twice as many people died as were born in Japan. The country registered fewer than 800,000 births and about 1.58 million deaths and lost more than three million inhabitants between 2011 and 2021.
Bloomberg reported that the pace of decline is increasing due to its aging population, with women there having on average 1.3 children, along with a low level of immigration. From a peak of slightly more than 128 million in 2008, the population has fallen to 124.6 million. With the share of people aged 65 and older increased to more than 29 percent last year, the country has the second largest proportion of people 65 years and above. The life expectancy in the island nation is among the highest in the world, with 1 in 1,500 over 100 years old.
Snippets from the Interview
Keeping the statistics in the mind, the aide of Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida claimed in the interview that the country will cease to exist if nose-diving birth rates are not caught. She added that the fall in birth rates will create havoc on the ‘social safety net’ and on the ‘economy’. If not intervened now, she added, the social security system would collapse, industrial and economic strength would diminish and there wouldn’t be enough recruits for the Self-Defence Forces in order to protect the country.
The upper house lawmaker who advises Kishida on LGBTQ issues also concernedly said, “If we go on like this, the country will disappear.” Stating on the birth rates, she was alarmed that the number instead of falling gradually is heading straight down. She reflected on the fact that it’s the people who will face enormous harm and have to live through the process of disappearance. She further said that the current demographic trend is a terrible disease that will affect those children who are born now and will be thrown into a gradually turning distorted society that shrinks and loses its ability to function.
Miss Mori stressed that women’s empowerment and birth rate policies are the same, implying it would not be effective if the issues are treated separately. Ms. Mori criticized the attitude to think about the issue separately from finance, trade, and especially from female empowerment. She also urged the government to do whatever it can in its capacity to mitigate the damage by slowing down the plunge.
Who is Masako Mori?
She is a politician from Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Mori was named to the second Cabinet of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Minister of State for the Declining Birth rate and consumer affairs following the LDP’s victory in the 2012 general election. She has served in the House of Councillors since 2007 and as Minister of Justice from October 2019 to September 2020. She was a lawyer prior to her political stint.
Preparing the Future
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has declared the new package will be ‘on a different dimension’ from past policies but hasn’t yet mentioned how the package will be spent. Later, PM Kishida promised to double the spending on children and families by increasing child allowances, improving childcare provision, reducing student debt for those who have children, and changing working styles to control the country’s declining birth rate.
Critics point out that throwing money at families with children is inadequate to address the problem’s crux. A paper from a government panel on gender equality stated that comprehensive changes are required, including reducing the burden on women of raising children and making it easier, after childbirth, for them to engage in the workforce. It will definitely be difficult for the government to flip the existing picture but it is what the time demands.