Japan’s population problem
Regarding the front page story “Population woes crowd Japan” (The Japan Times on Sunday, June 22, 2014) population decline in Japan is like global warming: it can’t be stopped. No way, no how. News reports on Japan’s demographics are appearing with greater frequency because now the population has shrunk for the last three years in a row, is projected to continue doing so, and this worries people. Even though it was predicted decades ago the politicians are only now getting serious. Prime Minister Abe has made it his policy to halt the decline at an even hundred million by the year 2060. Of course the policy will fail. First, because the decline is not so much a transitory thing as a grand historical resetting. Second, because the government refuses to address the main reason for small contemporary families: it’s the high cost of living more than anything else. It’s not so much about the availability of child care, the monies spent on family allowances, paid maternity/paternity leave, or holiday time as it is the cost of living, stupid! With that in mind, it must be said that deflation was a jolly good thing. But now we have a government committed to inflation because politicians are in the pockets of large corporations and lobby groups and inflation speaks to their profitability in the midst of a history of bad investments and incompetence. Business needs inflation to cover the costs of its own folly.
The government doesn’t want the public to think it, but the high fertility rates that created Japan’s large modern population are the anomaly, not the norm. What is happening now with the unsustainably low fertility rate is that the population is naturally reaching for a new, smaller, stable level by reviving an historically ‘normal’ fertility rate. So this is what’s going to happen: once it reaches that level - 90 million or less - then the fertility rate, the number of children an average woman has in her lifetime, will rebound to the 2.1 level needed to maintain the status quo. The government can enact laws to jury rig the situation, but women control their own bodies as they should, and the collective population has an independent intelligence that defies micromanagement.
Published in The Japan Times on Sunday newspaper on Sunday, June 29, 2014 as “No way to stop ‘normal’ reset of population."