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Friday, May 10, 2024

A brief look at Japan’s faltering population

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A family prays for the victims of the atomic bombing by the U.S., in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima A family prays for the victims of the atomic bombing by the U.S., in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima

At the moment, the government’s contradictory approach to promoting natalist policies while permitting anti-life policies like abortion, and condoning anti-family LGBTQ+ ideologies would not augur well for the future of the country’s demographics, possibly fulfilling Elon Musk’s 2022 statements that Japan would “eventually cease to exist”.

 

For some time already, Japan’s rapidly aging population and population decrease has been old news. A simple stroll along the Sugamo shopping district in Tokyo, Japan’s capital, would suffice to provide many visitors to Tokyo and Japan a glimpse of the country’s rapidly aging population.

Based on Japanese national data on April 12 this year, Japan’s population plummeted by a record of 595,000—or 0.48 percent—from a year before to 124,352,000, as of October 1 last year. This population fall signified the 13th consecutive year of decrease for Japan amid its increasingly aging population and a sharp birth decline. In 2023, a demographics poll by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications revealed that the country’s population dropped by 801,000 in 2022 from 2021 to 122,423,038, marking the first time all 47 prefectures of the East Asian country witnessed a population drop.  Strikingly, children under the age of 15 comprised less than 12% percent of Japan’s population in 2022, while those aged 65 and over accounted for almost 30%, based on figures from Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

As per a government survey released on April 30, Japan has a total of 9 million unoccupied homes due to its decreasing population. Government figures disclosed that the number of empty houses, known as akiya, as of October 2023 increased by over half a million since the previous survey in 2018. The total number of vacant homes signifies nearly 14% of all houses in Japan, though actual figures could be higher, leftist news outlet The Guardian reported.

Further mirroring the country’s aging demographics, Oji Holdings, a Japanese diaper manufacturer, recently announced that it would cease diaper production for babies in September 2024 and focus on producing adult diapers instead.

Further mirroring the country’s aging demographics, Oji Holdings, a Japanese diaper manufacturer, recently announced that it would cease diaper production for babies in September 2024 and focus on producing adult diapers instead.

However, despite Japan’s declining population, many younger Japanese still shudder at the prospect of getting hitched or having families, citing escalating living costs, poor job prospects, as well as demanding corporate cultures that reportedly deter women who wish to continue working from starting a family.

A 2023 survey conducted by Rohto Pharmaceutical divulged that around half of unmarried people under 30 in Japan were not keen on having children, quoting economic concerns and the responsibilities of childbirth and parenting as reasons influencing their decisions. 49.4% of the 400 survey respondents between 18 to 29 years old indicated  they did not want children.

Arguably, as many Japanese have grown up in a highly developed society marked by convenience and a high standard of living, they have been accustomed to relatively comfortable lifestyles with excellent nationwide transportation networks, high-speed Internet services, and state-of-the-art technology. Moreover, as Japanese society greatly emphasizes social status and public perceptions of oneself, it is no wonder why many younger Japanese are opting to put off, or forego entirely, marriage and family, in order to pursue material wealth and the social prestige that comes with it. Consequently, many Japanese decide not to have children as they do not want to sacrifice personal comforts and luxuries in favor of raising children.

Alarmingly, as abortion is unfortunately legal in Japan, some Japanese women have sadly opted to kill their unborn children due to various reasons, including economic concerns. The role of several pro-abortion groups, including Women’s Action Network Japan (WAN Japan), have been instrumental in making the killing of unborn babies more readily available in a country already beset by a population crisis.

“During and after the war when (Japanese people) were living on the edge of starvation, nobody said it's better not to have children because it would be too much trouble. These days, some people have a selfish idea that it is better not to give birth to children,” Nikai said. “In order for everyone (in Japan) to be happy, we should have many children and develop our country,” the politician added.

In response, Toshihiro Nikai, Secretary General of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), declared in 2018 that not having children was “selfish”.

“During and after the war when (Japanese people) were living on the edge of starvation, nobody said it's better not to have children because it would be too much trouble. These days, some people have a selfish idea that it is better not to give birth to children,” Nikai said.

“In order for everyone (in Japan) to be happy, we should have many children and develop our country,” the politician added.

Nikai’s remarks came amid years of Japanese government attempts to encourage Japanese couples to have children, with incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida unveiling a series of government measures in 2023, the cost of which was estimated at around 20 .6 billion euros, to boost the country’s birth rates. These measures included a commitment to double government expenditure on child care by the early 2030s and to raise the income limit for cash benefits for children.

Nonetheless, as Kishida at that time did not elaborate on how the government would afford these measures, his announcement was greeted with cynicism back home.

A survey by the leftist Asahi Shimbun released in June 2023 indicated that 73% of respondents did not think Kishida's measures will tackle Japan’s falling birth rates.

Interestingly enough, there remains a portion of Japanese society that still harbors conservative views about family and child-rearing, including the traditional notion that women are the ones who remain home to look after their children, while their husbands acted as breadwinners.

Predictably, leftist media outlets and advocates have slammed such conservative views of family and child-raising as “outdated”, “bigoted” and “sexist”. Consequently, many Japanese women, particularly those in large cities in Tokyo, have bought the leftist narrative and decided to pursue high-flying careers instead of remaining home to look after their families.

As most Japanese are not acquainted with Christian-Catholic teachings that value children as gifts from God to be raised to become saints, it is not surprising that anti-life  leftist ideologies like the LGBTQ+ movement have gained traction in the country, particularly among the younger generation.

On their end, many Japanese men, rejecting societal pressures to hold a decent job to eventually support a family, have decided to completely withdraw from the “outside world”altogether, becoming social recluses dependent on their parents instead. Such phenomena are hardly conducive to raising healthy Japanese families, to say the least.

As most Japanese are not acquainted with Christian-Catholic teachings that value children as gifts from God to be raised to become saints, it is not surprising that anti-life  leftist ideologies like the LGBTQ+ movement have gained traction in the country, particularly among the younger generation.

For instance, on May 12 2023, 15 diplomatic missions in Japan, led by the Joe Biden-appointed US Ambassador Rahm Emanuel,  released a video message demanding that Tokyo pass a law favoring the LGBTQ+ agenda in the country.

“With all the challenges that we all face, from the implications of climate change, wars, civil strife, hunger — the last thing that should occupy our energy is two people who love each other and want to build a life together,” the woke Emanuel asserted on X (formerly Twitter).

Caving to pressures from LGBTQ+ groups, the 15-judge Japanese Supreme Court in 2023 overturned a 2003 law mandating that trans-identifying people must obtain a formal diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder” and undergo “sex change” surgeries before being eligible to officially alter their sex on government documents like family registries.

While it would be an Herculean task to change the individual attitudes of Japanese towards family and childbearing at one time, save a miracle by God, the Kishida government can first re-think its stance towards leftist ideologies promoted by the woke West in order to better address the country’s dwindling population.

At the moment, the government’s contradictory approach to promoting natalist policies while permitting anti-life policies like abortion, and condoning anti-family LGBTQ+ ideologies would not augur well for the future of the country’s demographics, possibly fulfilling Elon Musk’s 2022 statements that Japan would “eventually cease to exist”.

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Angeline Tan | Remnant Columnist, Singapore

Angeline is a Catholic writer who enjoys Catholic history and architecture. Her favorite saints include Saint Joseph, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Saint Philomena and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of all Saints.