Japan's falling birthrate looks like a kind of slow motion national seppuku, leaving the country's policy makers flabbergasted and fearful.
An in-depth report by The Guardian examined the social elements to the long slide, starting with the fact that young people have increasingly abandoned sexual activity and dating all together. "Millions aren't even dating, and increasing numbers can't be bothered with sex," wrote Abigail Haworth. "Japan already has one of the world's lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060."
Japan’s population fell by a bit more than two-tenths of a percent last year, to 127.515 million, Japan Times reported in April. About 30 million of that population is over 65. "The decline of 284,000 in the total population, which also included foreign nationals, was the largest of its kind since officials began compiling comparable data in 1950," Japan Times said.
To put that in perspective in the United States, we are in the middle of the lowest rate of population growth since the Great Depression, but the country still had a net gain of about 1.4 million people without counting immigration. At a population of about 317 million, going from the US rate of growth to Japan's rate of recede would be the equivalent of doubling the death rate for the ten leading causes of death in America.
Japan's death rate began exceeding its birth rate in 2007.
"The effects of a population decrease are already being felt," noted an editorial in the Japan Times. "Cases in which road bridges have been closed to traffic because of a lack of funds for maintenance and a drop in the number of users are increasing. Forests exist whose owners are now unknown. The number of vacant houses are increasing. Some municipalities have passed by-laws under which they will demolish vacant houses that have become dangerously dilapidated."