An adviser to Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said “the country will disappear” if it cannot check the alarming fall in its birth rate. This comes a week after it was reported that around twice as many people died in Japan as were born in 2022.
“If we go on like this, the country will disappear,” Masako Mori said in an interview in Tokyo, Bloomberg reported. “It’s the people who have to live through the process of disappearance who will face enormous harm. It’s a terrible disease that will afflict those children,” she added.
Incidentally, around 10 months ago, Elon Musk had tweeted raising the same fears, drawing angry comments from some. “At risk of stating the obvious, unless something changes to cause the birth rate to exceed the death rate, Japan will eventually cease to exist. This would be a great loss for the world,” Musk had tweeted last May.
At risk of stating the obvious, unless something changes to cause the birth rate to exceed the death rate, Japan will eventually cease to exist. This would be a great loss for the world.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 7, 2022
Japan’s population peaked in 2008 and has declined since then to 124.6 million, and the pace of decline is increasing. In 2022, Japan reported fewer than 800,000 births and about 1.58 million deaths as the proportion of people aged 65 or above increased to more than 29%, Bloomberg reported.
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While many Japanese commentators had complained in reply to Musk’s tweet that the government was not doing enough to fight the situation — such as by providing more facilities to help women return to work after having children — Kishida has now vowed to double the spending on children and families. So far, he has mentioned increasing child allowances, improving childcare provision, and changing working styles.
Mori, an upper house lawmaker and former minister who advises Kishida on the birth rate problem and LGBTQ issues, said, “It’s (birth rate) not falling gradually; it’s heading straight down,” said. “A nosedive means children being born now will be thrown into a society that becomes distorted, shrinks and loses its ability to function,” she added.
“Women’s empowerment same as birth rate policies”
Mori pointed out that if things continued as they were now, the country’s social security system would collapse, industrial and economic strength would decline, and there would not be enough recruits for the defence forces.
Mori acknowledged that reversing the birth rate slide would be extremely difficult now as the number of women of child-bearing age had fallen drastically. But the government must do everything it can to slow the plunge and help mitigate the damage, she added.
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According to the Bloomberg report, a paper from a government panel on gender equality has said comprehensive changes are needed to arrest the birth rate fall. The burden on women of raising children must be reduced, making it easier for them to participate in the workforce after giving birth.
“Women’s empowerment and birth rate policies are the same,” said Mori. “If you deal with these things separately, it won’t be effective,” she stressed.
(With agency inputs)