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Project December 6, 2018

Japan's Demographic Reckoning


Image by Emiko Jozuka. Japan, 2018.
Image by Emiko Jozuka. Japan, 2018.

Japan is shrinking fast. In 2017, the country experienced its most radical natural population decline since official records began in 1899. With fewer than one million births for a population of 127 million people (that's mostly elderly), Japan is on the brink of a demographic crisis. The rest of the world is also aging rapidly, but Japan's situation is unique. Unless the country confronts its historically low fertility rate, hostility to immigration, and status as a "super-aged" nation, it faces an uncertain future.

Increasingly, the government and residents have recognized the impending dangers of a graying population and dwindling labor force on the country's social welfare systems. From towns offering families incentives to have more children to schemes that renovate and give away vacant houses to young people, grassroots efforts have sprung up to remedy the demographic decline.

But will inward-looking Japan's obsession with itself continue to stunt its growth? Or, have the nation's policy makers realized that there's a greater need now more than ever to embrace a multicultural future?


teal halftone illustration of a family carrying luggage and walking


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