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Japan’s shrinking population highlights greater global citizenry concerns




A mother tries to put her crying baby on the starting line during the Baby Super Crawl Dash at an event for young parents in Yokohama, in suburban Tokyo, on November 23, 2014. Ten babies took part in the four-metre (13-ft) race, with some 800 babies in total in the overall event, after being selected to join by the promoters.
A mother tries to put her crying baby on the starting line during the Baby Super Crawl Dash at an event for young parents in Yokohama, in suburban Tokyo, on November 23, 2014. Ten babies took part in the four-metre (13-ft) race, with some 800 babies in total in the overall event, after being selected to join by the promoters.
TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images

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Japan’s health ministry just released some startling statistics on the country’s population: Babies there are being born at the lowest rate since the ministry began keeping track in 1947.

About 1 million newborns entered the world in 2014; that’s down 9,000 from 2013. By contrast, the ministry tallied 1.27 million deaths. The decline in births is so significant that one estimate predicts the population could shrink by 30 million by the year 2050, greatly reducing the country’s GDP and putting a strain on pension and social welfare systems. The government warns that if things don’t change soon, more than 40% of the population will be over the age of 65 by 2060. These numbers raise one important question: why aren’t more people starting families? Analysts point to a few possible reasons:

A 2013 survey by the Japan Family Planning Association found that 45% of women between the ages of 16 and 24 have no interest in physically intimate contact. Meanwhile, a recent poll by Japan Today reveals that 26.5% of men aged 25-39 are virgins.

Though social factors unique to Japan will continue to shrink its population, many other nations face similar economic and social uncertainty as people get married later in life and have fewer children.

Today on AirTalk, we’ll explore the social challenges contributing to Japan’s population decline. We’ll also look at the impact that a shrinking population could have on the world economy.

Guest: 

John Weeks, author of “ Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues“ and distinguished professor emeritus of geography, San Diego State University