- Japan is the first of many nations facing a reinforcing cycle of population decline
- The government will be forced to act politically to shake the country out of its lethargy
- The country’s emphasis on cohesion rules out immigration as a way out
- Labor force adjustments, automation and social pressure are among the options
There are innumerable studies about the social and economic implications of Japan’s rapidly aging and shrinking population. Here we deal with the political fallout of these trends, and reflect on possible responses by the government and society. The situation is so dramatic that it is not possible anymore to restrict our review to traditional methods for stimulating population growth and returning to a sound and sustainable age pyramid.
The 19th-century demographer Thomas Malthus has left a lasting imprint on the popular imagination. Fears of population growth outstripping food supply and the
availability of the resources necessary to maintain civilized life on earth have been predominant over the past half century. By contrast, little thought has been given to the consequences of a shrinking population. One aspect of this phenomenon is particularly noteworthy: once a population has started to shrink, it is very difficult to reverse the trend. Presently not only the industrialized Western nations are undergoing this experience. Among the developing countries, the People’s Republic of China, too, has discovered that it is facing a serious problem of population decline.