Japan Population Drops by Record Margin Following Pandemic

A Japanese elderly woman waits for the traffic light to cross the street in Nagano, northwest of the capital Tokyo on November 7, 2016. / AFP / BEHROUZ MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images

Japan’s population dropped by a record margin of nearly 0.4 percent year-on-year as of January 1, the largest decrease recorded since 2013, Kyodo News reported Wednesday.

The population of Japan declined by 483,789, or 0.38 percent, from January 2020 to January 2021, bringing the total number of people in the country to just 126,654,244.

Japan’s government released the statistics on August 4, indicating the decrease reflects “a fall in resident foreigners due to tighter border controls resulting from the coronavirus pandemic,” according to Kyodo News.

Japan’s population contracted this year by the largest margin recorded since 2013 when Japanese census data “started to include resident foreigners,” according to Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

“The number of people leaving Japan surpassed those entering the country, contributing to the first drop in seven years of resident foreigners at 2,811,543, down 55,172 from 2020,” Kyodo News reported.

“The number of Japanese decreased 428,617 to 123,842,701 for the 12th straight year of decline, with deaths outnumbering births in the graying society,” the news agency noted.

Japan’s child population dropped to an all-time low in May following nearly five decades of steady decline.

“The number of children aged 14 or younger stood at 14.93 million as of April 1, some 190,000 fewer than a year before and the lowest figure among comparable data available since 1950,” Japan’s Mainichi newspaper reported on May 4, citing data from Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The number of babies born in Japan in 2020 decreased to 843,321, the lowest figure recorded since Japan’s health ministry began surveys of the demographic in 1899, the Mainichi reported in June.

“The figure was down 24,407 from the previous year when the number dipped below 900,000 for the first time,” according to the newspaper.

People age 65 or older in Japan accounted for 28.73 percent of the country’s population in 2020, “up 0.32 percentage point from a year earlier,” Kyodo News reported on August 4. “The ratio of people aged between 15 and 64, regarded as the working population, accounted for 59.09 percent, down 0.20 point.”

Japan’s aging population threatens to upend both the country’s economy and its ancient cultural norms, based upon a naturally insular society. Japan is an archipelago comprised of four large islands and several lesser islets in the Pacific Ocean that has traditionally sustained low rates of immigration. In an effort to sustain its current status as the world’s third-largest economy, Japan’s government relaxed its visa requirements in September 2020 to allow more foreign workers entry to the country.

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