The Problem of Ageing Society in Japan
Social ageing changes every aspect of society. Nothing can stay untouched by it, be it politics, economy, finance and social structure to mention a few. An aged society is not necessarily better or worse than a young one, but it is different. It poses challenges that are not easy to tackle. How it is different is not so obvious, nor is what causes the difference.
From the beginning of the Meiji era until the present Heisei era, Japan’s population has grown at a continuous, and at times alarming, rate from 35 million to 127 million. Meiji Japan and Heisei Japan differ not only because they are separated by 120 years, but also because a society of 35 million is not the same as one of 127 million.
Projections always tend to show possibilities. They do not stand on firm ground.
For example author Florian Coulmas, in his book Population Decline And Ageing in Japan - The Social Consequence, says, “a serious, scholarly book published in 1996 by Tokyo University Press stated on the basis of available vital statistics that, if the birth rate remained lower than 2.0 per cent, the population was expected to decrease after 2015 (Yoshikawa, Bhattacharya and Vogt, 1996: 235). Within 10 years, this projection was off the mark by a decade. In a much shorter time range, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research as well as all Japanese government agencies with their own statistical bureaus were taken by surprise when at the end of 2005 it turned out that the population had started shrinking that year, despite the onset of population decline being projected to begin in 2007. Demographic forecasts, in Japan and elsewhere, have regularly missed baby booms. This is because demographers do not understand why there are baby booms and busts, and they do not get much help from sociologists or economists. Other population shocks such as those caused by war, natural disaster or famine defy prediction by their very nature.”...