OT? Japan's Demographics

News article below on the population trend in Japan. If I were Japanese, I would be alarmed by this news. Japan is, by nature, a rather isolated society. They don’t allow much immigration. And the birth rate is so low, the population is declining.

From the link:
The average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime fell to 1.26 in 2022 from 1.30 a year earlier, tying the record low from 2005, according to the annual population statistics. The fertility rate is far below the rate of 2.06 -2.07 considered to be needed to maintain a population.

Japan’s population of more than 125 million has been declining for 16 years and is projected to fall to 87 million by 2070. A shrinking and aging population has huge implications for the economy and for national security as Japan fortifies its military to counter China’s increasingly assertive territorial ambitions.

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From the article, last year there were 77,747 births and 1,570,000 deaths.

  • Pete

China might be even worse off. Although Japan is getting older, faster, China’s population is also in decline. China likely will not be able to fully industrialize by the time the demographic pinch really hits in about ten years.


Earlier this year, India surpassed China as the most populous nation. 1.426 billion people in India. I believe the US is somewhere around 330 million.

  • Pete
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Re China. For years people worried that China’s population wss growing so fast they would not be able to feed themselves.

The one child policy was a drastic way to address too much population growth. It was successful and maybe went too far. Now they see the effects.

Would a two child policy have been enough?

One child in China is probably male. That has additional consequences. Rebound seems likely but may take a while.


It is too late. China’s population pyramid is inverted. China’s population will stay in decline and there’s nothing they can do about it. Not for several decades, anyway.

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That is what the article says, but the births number appears to be off by a factor of 10. After looking at several other websites, the real number of births was closer to 770,000. That makes more sense.

Here is a more recent article from the Guardian.

Wednesday’s new data showed deaths hit a record high of more than 1.56 million while there were just 771,000 births in Japan in 2022, the first time the number of newborns has fallen below 800,000 since records began.

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  • Pete

Too late for what? In China end of one child may well mean young people may decide to have two or three children. It will be 20 years or more before those children have families resulting in exponential growth. Yes, population growth may take a while but the youth segment is likely to increase sooner.

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I have to say I don’t understand the reverence of “more population for more population’s sake”. It would seem to me that “better quality of life” and “less homelessness” and “better nutrition” and [fill in whatever positive attribute you wish] would be more important than “more people.”

It appears we are giving reverence to “bigger GDP” when the real issue should be “better life”. I cannot find a good chart displaying “quality of life” or even “personal income” dating back to 2000, so this will have to do. It is decidedly a mixed bag, showing both growth - and decline - of personal income in Japan.

Note the huge fall after the cataclysmic declination of the Nikkei in the late 90’s, another fall in 2008 as the credit lockup hit everyone, and another (I can’t easily explain) in 2014. But overall this is hardly a picture of disaster, as so many of the headlines would seem to imply. Indeed, all my searching turned up hundreds of articles and analyses decrying the problems in Japan, which by my rendering looks to be an advanced society grappling with many of the same challenges as in the US: widening disparity, youth distraction, etc.

Is “more” always more?

Chart: Japan personal income growth


Yes, but an aging population that depends on fewer young people to provide resources to drive the economy and produce food is a problem. Achieving balance in age distribution is a reasonable goal. It does not require population growth. Merely replacement of the deceased.

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Krugman had a column on this topic this week:

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“Traditional family values”. To a medieval lord, the more peons, the more crops and stuff, of which the lord took a cut, could be produced, and more soldiers for the lord to use to take stuff away from his neighbors, the benefits of which, mostly went to the lord. As the lord was often the local head of religion as well, breeding to infinity was written into the religion as everyone’s “duty”, because it enriched the lord.


Our fractional reserve banking system depends on growth, or at least inflation. A declining population means that the created wealth declines and the value of capital also declines. This deflation destroys the financial system. As we found out in 2008, the financial system is just as important and governments and electricity.

This why the worship of growth.

Not saying right, just the way it is.


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Japan’s population is 122MM. That 800K deficit will take a long time to have much impact. Fifty years or more. Plenty of time to make adjustments to policy. Japan is not likely to be deserted any time soon.

Will defence from invaders be a problem?