This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Cultural Demography of Japan

I have written and blogged often over the years about Japan's demographic situation--about its rapid drop in fertility after WWII that offered up the world's first clear example of a demographic dividend leading to its economy recovery after the war, and then to its aging population brought about by the continued low birth rate in the absence of any real immigration, not to mention the fact that Japan has had the world's highest life expectancy for several decades now (surpassing Sweden in the 1980s).

Culture plays a strong role in almost every aspect of Japan's demography and two recent stories help to illustrate that. Thanks to Renee Stepler for pointing us to data from the 2015 census of Japan showing the rather dramatic increase of bachelorhood among Japanese men. The graph below shows the percent of men and women never married by age 50 in Japan. It has risen for both men and woman, but especially so for men. The article suggests that this is partly due to the difficulty that men have finding a job that pays enough to afford marriage, and it is probably also complicated by the culture of overwork in Japan.


The other story is from the Migration Policy Institute report by David Green pointing out that immigration has been on the rise in Japan, even if generally under the radar.
The foreign share of the overall population has steadily grown, rising from 0.7 percent in 1990 to 1.8 percent in 2016 (see Figure 1). While that proportion is tiny compared to other highly industrialized economies, the population has risen in absolute numbers from just under 900,000 (including zainichi) in 1990 to approximately 2.3 million as of mid-2016—a 160 percent increase, according to official government data.
Green estimates that Japan would have to reach 10% foreign-born to counteract low fertility and that would probably be met by a huge public outcry, but for now the number is at least going up, with most of the immigrants coming from elsewhere in East Asia, especially China and Korea.
Japan may never ultimately look like a “traditional” country of immigration with an open door and relatively easy access to full citizenship, but the Japan of the 2050s will look very different demographically than that of the 2010s.
That seems likely on many fronts, and we have to hope that the transition is a peaceful one. 

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