Japan Demography

Japan Demography and Economic Geography


According to topschoolsintheusa, Japan is an East Asian state. The country, marked by heavy economic stagnation, has for years seen its population decrease and at the same time age: at the 2010 census the residents were 128,057,695, down to 126,999,808 in 2014, according to an estimate by UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs). According to data released by the government, 1,031,000 babies were born in 2013 and 1,275,000 deaths were recorded. The consequence of this negative natural increase, accompanied by a low fertility rate (1.4 children per woman in 2014) and a high average life expectancy, is one of the highest percentage of elderly people in the world: people over the age of 65 is equal to a quarter of the total. If the trend remains the same, the country will see its population shrink by a third in the space of fifty years. All this has an immediate impact also of an economic nature, given the growing incidence of pensions on public expenditure: the share does not exceed 20% of GDP, but it is estimated that, in about twenty years, it could exceed 35%. A solution to this situation could be to open a traditionally isolated society to immigration (foreigners represent less than 2% of the total); a 2011 United Nations report estimates that, to keep the percentage of the population of working age constant, Japan should receive over 600,000 immigrants a year until 2050.

With a territorial surface slightly greater than that of Italy, Japan has more than double the number of residents and therefore ranks among the first countries in the world for demographic density (337 residents / km2). Cities with more than 300,000 residents there are 30, while those with over one million residents 12. In the area between Tōkyō and Nagoya and in the Ōsaka region there is the greatest urban and economic development. The four major metropolitan areas – Tōkyō, Yokohama, Kawasaki (31.7 million residents and a density seven times higher than the national average), Nagoya (6.5 million), Ōsaka, Kōbe, Kyōto (17.5 million), Kitakyūshū (5 million) – constitute a real linear megalopolis, similar to the one that extends on the northeastern coast of the United States, where the average density exceeds 4000 residents / km2. This entails considerable problems for the population: many workers live in apartments of a few square meters, made available by the company they work for, in beehive buildings that have almost exclusively dormitory functions. The government is trying to reverse the migratory flow that has led much of the Japanese population to urbanize by selling plots in rural areas at affordable prices.

A characteristic of Japanese society is the great ethnic, linguistic, cultural and historical homogeneity. 99.4% of the population is Japanese, while the only distinct group is the indigenous Ainu, present almost exclusively on the island of Hokkaidō, who have always been discriminated against and officially recognized by Parliament only on 12 June 2008.

Economic and financial policy. – The economic policies undertaken in the early 21st century. and in particular the consolidation measures of the banking system have laid the foundations for sustained and robust economic growth, while contributing to the progressive deterioration of public accounts. Since 2006, a new monetary policy has been adopted that is more transparent and effective in combating deflation, even if the Central Bank has continued to exercise a certain degree of discretion in the annual determination of the target inflation rate. On the front of the financial consolidation of the state, public spending has been reduced, above all with the cut in public investments and the decrease in the number of state employees. To promote the spread of healthy competitive dynamics in the internal market, in 2005 the regulatory framework was reformed in an anti-monopoly direction and in 2007 the privatization of the post office was initiated, as well as reinvigorating the plan to stimulate competition in the financial and capital markets, also with the adoption of measures to protect transparency. The financial crisis that has seriously affected the country since the second half of 2007 has led the Japanese government to adopt a wide range of measures concerning the financial sector and fiscal and monetary policies. In particular, the authorities promptly reviewed the rules and practices regarding the injection of public capital into credit institutions and the purchase of securities from banks, while other initiatives were carried out to encourage lending to SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises).

Evolution of the main economic aggregates

Since 2008, the Central Bank has adopted unconventional monetary policy measures for the stability of financial markets and has facilitated corporate financing. These interventions were also carried out thanks to the allocation of state funds distributed several times during the period of decline in economic activity. In addition, the government has introduced a broad program of economic stimuli which, combined with the increase in disbursements for social stabilizers activated in the face of the crisis, has contributed to a drastic deterioration in public finances. The main fiscal policy interventions include the increase in transfers to businesses and households, the increase in public spending on social infrastructure and education, the allocation of subsidies for active employment policies and training, the reduction of the tax burden on the incomes of individuals, especially for the less well-off classes. During 2012, due to the new deflationary pressures on the internal market, the monetary authorities renewed their intention to combat the reduction in prices by setting a target inflation rate of 2% for the medium to long term; in 2013, the 2% rate was also defined as a short-term objective that the Central Bank pursued with expansive measures of the monetary base, with the purchase of long-term government bonds and acceptance as guarantees for loans of last resort of new and diversified risk securities. In this time, public finance was conditioned by the financial burden of the reconstruction work after the 2011 earthquake and by the country’s new energy policy aimed at reducing dependence on nuclear power and increasing the supply of alternative energy, including renewable. Government authorities have also launched an agricultural reform aimed primarily at increasing competition in the sector, production efficiency and stability of trade flows on the basis of international agreements. Other interventions concerned the labor market, with measures to protect mature workers and those with atypical contracts, and the real market, in particular to promote industrial competitiveness and innovation.

Japan Demography