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Population structure in an aged society

Posted June. 04, 2018 07:27,   

Updated June. 04, 2018 07:27


In a special program about Japan’s shrinking population, scholars predict the population structure of the country will have the coffin shape by 2050. In the demographic transition model, the shape of population structure includes the pyramid, bell, tombstone, and kite, but never seen the coffin before. Here, we mean a coffin that is hexagonal in shape with tapered head and foot and wide shoulders, different from a rectangular casket. In this coffin shaped pyramid, the elderly age group around 85 makes up the largest proportion of the whole population.

The population structure is a clear indicator of how a society looks in the future. One of the most series issues is that the proportion of people of working age is shrinking at rapid pace. In the show, by 2050, the total population is expected to decrease by 20 million and the number of people of working age (people aged between 15 and 64) will decrease by 35 million compared to when the figure peaked in the country. Then who are filling in this group? They are the elderly and foreign workers. The Japanese government has taken the initiative called “an actively working society of 100 million people,” in a bid to encourage women and the elderly to participate in the labor market. Despite its conservative immigration policy, many foreigners are working in various fields in society. Recent estimates released by the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, a government agency headed by Prime minister Abe, shocked the Japanese society. According to the estimates, by 2040, the share of the population aged 65 years and over will peak at 40 million, which means one in three Japanese is the elderly.

In 2040, social security costs such as nursing care and medical expenses will increase by 60 percent and the number of people to be cared will soar to 10.6 million from the current 8.23 million, according to the estimates. Most of the elderly who rely on pensions, the only source of income, are concerned about health and nursing care insurance that are only going to increase day by day.

French demographer and anthropologist Emmanuel Todd wrote in his book that Japan has already given up being a great nation, pointing out its conservative immigration policy and the passive attitude toward shrinking nation’s population. Shigeru Ishiba, a Japanese politician and former member of the Liberal Democratic Party, once said the biggest security threat to Kapan is shrinking and aging population, adding that “If Japan became a military power, what would it mean without the people?”

How about Korea? In 2017, South Korea’s fertility rate was 1.05, lower than Japan’s 1.43. The trend started in Japan first, but Korea is going through aging population at much faster pace. The older population in Korea is expected to reach the late 30 percent by 2040, and by 2060, the share is likely to be higher than Japan’s. Korea is becoming an aged society, which the mankind has never experienced before. What will it look like? I hope it will not be as pessimistic as described in the coffin-shaped population structure.

Young-A Soh sya@donga.com