Japan Population Drops by Highest Margin in Nearly 10 Years

TOKYO, JAPAN - JUNE 27: An old person walks on the street using an umbrella to protect herself from the sun on June 27, 2022, in Tokyo's popular Shibuya district in Tokyo, Japan. The capital of Japan has been swept by a heat wave for the past few days with …
David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Japan’s population dropped in 2021 by 726,342, which was the greatest decline margin documented since Tokyo began recording relevant data nearly a decade ago, Kyodo News reported on Tuesday.

“Japan’s population declined to 125.93 million as of Jan. 1, down by 726,342 in its biggest drop since comparable data became available in 2013, as deaths again outnumbered births and COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] border restrictions kept foreign resident numbers low,” the Tokyo-based news agency reported on August 9 citing government figures.

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released data on Tuesday that tallied Japan’s population at 125,927,902. The figure included resident foreigners, a demographic which saw its own numbers dip by 0.57 percent from 2020.

Nearly all of Japan’s 47 prefectures recorded drops in their local populations last year, with the exception of Okinawa. Tokyo and its three surrounding prefectures (Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa) documented population decreases in 2021 for the first time since 2013.

“The number of Japanese decreased by 619,140 to 123,223,561 for the 13th straight year of decline, with deaths at an all-time high of around 1.44 million and births at a record low of around 810,000,” Kyodo News observed.

“People aged 65 or older accounted for a record 29 percent of the entire population, up 0.27 percentage point from a year earlier, and the highest since data were first collected in 1994,” according to the news agency.

Japan’s population has steadily contracted and aged for years, troubling the nation’s government. The demographic crisis means, among other things, that Japan’s workforce is shrinking. Tokyo has recently expressed interest in boosting the number of foreign workers in Japan to counter the labor shortage but has been generally prevented from doing so by Japan’s own strictly enforced Chinese coronavirus travel restrictions.

“Resident foreigners fell 107,202 to 2,704,341, marking a drop for the second consecutive year due to tighter border controls amid the coronavirus pandemic,” Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications revealed this week.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare announced on June 3 that the nation’s newborn tally dropped in 2021 by 29,231 from the previous year. The number of babies born in Japan last year fell to “the level that the government’s 2017 study forecast for 2027,” Kyodo News observed at the time.

The news agency on Tuesday noted that Japan’s federal government is “seeking to improve the birth rate and encourage people to live outside the Tokyo metropolitan area to revitalize regional communities.” These initiatives have yet to produce tangible benefits to Japan’s population figures, however.

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