Japan tries to curb its plummeting population

The acceleration of Japan’s population collapse is so rapid that the country’s birthrate has dropped to a historic level, the lowest since data gathering began in 1899, according to reports.

The Japan Times reported that its government believes that 921,000 babies will be born by the end of 2018 — 25,000 fewer than in the previous year.

The country’s birth and death rates are creating huge social and economic concerns, as NPR reported.

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About 127 million people live in Japan, and its population could drop below 100 million by 2049. By 2036, one in three people will be elderly, creating workforce concerns.

The Atlantic reported that a major factor may be that labor laws were changed in the 1990s leading to more freelance work rather than stable jobs for workers — building “a class of men who don’t marry and have children because they — and their potential partners — know they can’t afford to.”

Reports have said among Japanese singles between the ages of 18 and 34, nearly 70 percent of men and 60 percent of women were not in a relationship.

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The country’s social security system is being redeveloped on the premise that aging and a shrinking population will continue.

In September, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Japan is gearing up to accept more foreign workers as its own population is on the brink of a steep decline. Kono told a World Economic Forum meeting in Hanoi that Japan gains “value added” by accepting foreigners, especially since its aging population and low birth rate mean the country is shrinking by a half-million people a year.

“We cannot sustain our society like that,” he said in response to a question during a panel discussion. “We are opening up our country. We are opening up our labor market to foreign countries. We are now trying to come up with a new work permit policy so I think everyone shall be welcome in Japan if they are willing to assimilate into Japanese society.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.