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.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

The "Tyranny of Demography" in Japan

My thanks to Duane Miller for pointing me to an article in this week's Economist discussing the funeral industry in Japan. This is a classic example of applied demography--business trends being driven in this case by the age wave. Japan's post-WWII baby boomers are dying off and so the demand for end-of-life services is on the rise. 
Although Japanese are living longer, healthier lives, the huge baby-boom generation born after the second world war is starting to die just as younger Japanese are having fewer children. The population of 127m has already peaked and is set to fall below 100m by 2050. This year around 1m Japanese will be born, and around 1.3m will die. By 2040 annual deaths may approach 1.7m.
Call it peak death. It is already changing families. Traditionally, offspring would handle their deceased parents’ affairs, with neighbours helping with funeral ceremonies at home. But many more Japanese, particularly in depopulated rural areas and coastal towns, are now dying alone, with few to help them into the next world.
Data from the UN Population Division show that in 1950 in Japan 35% of the population was under the age of 15, while only 5 percent was aged 65+. As of this year, only 13% are under 15, while the 65+ group has grown to 26% of the population. By mid-century, it is projected that 12% will be under 15, while the 65+ group will have increased to 36% of the population. I don't think we're at peak death yet! 

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