Population ponderings

Japan needs a boost

in its population and

needs it soon we see

 

This is no ‘new’ news but a report that the working age population in Japan may shrink 40% in the next 45 years is always food for thought as the measures needed to counteract this declining population depends on reversing deeply ingrained cultural attitudes, about mothers, the workforce and Japan’s homogeneity.

Is there a chance for future immigrants to Japan here?   I doubt it too much.  PM Abe is doing all he can to avoid inviting immigrants to his turf.     With the population at 127 million at present, and with only 2% of that being non-Japanese, I don’t see what he has to fear in letting in a higher number every year but he prefers to bolster the fertility rate first which he has been saying every year of his tenure I’m sure,  i.e. produce more Japanese people who in 45 years time will be part of the workforce (you hope).

The solutions put to him included looking after immigration, kindergartens (freeing up or creating more spaces so more mothers, once they have their much-hoped for babies, can join the workplace), elderly care (making it less necessary for people, men or women, to give up their jobs to care for elderly relatives by providing more spaces in homes), removing tax breaks for spouses of employees (which makes them accept poorly-paid jobs, only part-time jobs or to stay out of the workforce altogether), equal treatment (women who make up the majority of hourly or contract workers in offices don’t get the benefits as those with permanent contracts) and decentralisation (getting companies to move out of over-crowded Tokyo by offering incentives such as tax breaks – reversing the trend of rural to urban migration – as women in Tokyo tend to have less babies because they live in cramped accommodation not conducive to rearing families and have few relatives to support them in childcare efforts when they want to go back to work).

It’s heartening to learn that a lot of Japanese think immigration should be upped, at least according to a survey in one of Japan’s biggest newspapers, so that’s a good sign for the future.  The immigrants I would suggest need to be able to speak Japanese from the get-go especially for care-givers looking after either children or the elderly, situations where instant communication is vital.

Decentralisation is a good idea too in theory but a woman might not have support outside the city either, especially if their company does not move to a city where they have friends or relatives.   They might have just as much support among the friends they have made in Tokyo. Also, the company might not particularly desire to move out of Tokyo if it has an otherwise good thing going there.   The elderly care situation is important because the care homes they go to need to be staffed well and obtain subsidies to keep them going.   There have been many reports these days about the elderly, in my own and a neighbouring country, being abused in care homes which is really sad as that is not how they want to live the last few years of their lives, if they do end up in nursing homes.     I don’t know what it’s like in Japan but the culture of filial duty means it is hard for people NOT to give up work and look after them.  Kindergartens are always a good idea as they help children socialise early on but it depends on the mother and family in question who like a lot of countries might be put off by the price (childcare in Ireland for example takes a huge chunk out of a couple’s salary).   I don’t think nannies or au-pairs are a big concept yet in Japan but who knows.

It will be interesting to see what measures they take to counter this diminishing work-force.

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