Japan’s closed door to immigrants heralds population decline

Jogei, Hiroshima prefecture, Nov. 5, 2015: the deserted main street of one of the most prosperous towns in Japan a century ago (source: dpa)
Jogei, Hiroshima prefecture, Nov. 5, 2015: the deserted main street of one of the most prosperous towns in Japan a century ago (source: dpa)

Japan faces a daunting demographic challenge. Both the general populace and the working-age population are graying and rapidly decreasing in size. In recent years, the number of deaths has outpaced the number of births by around 300,000 per year. If the country’s birth rate remains constant, this figure will continue to rise by tens of thousands annually.

Today, Japan’s population is about 126 million, not counting resident aliens. This figure is due to fall to 100 million by 2048, and to just 43 million by 2110. Metropolitan Tokyo is home to 38 million people, making it by far the largest urban agglomeration in the world. If the trend toward urbanization (which, in Japan, essentially...

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