Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Land of Disappearing Children

This is truly sad:
Japan celebrated a national holiday on Monday in honor of its children. But Children's Day might just as easily have been a national day of mourning.

For this is the land of disappearing children and a slow-motion demographic catastrophe that is without precedent in the developed world.

The number of children has declined for 27 consecutive years, a government report said over the weekend. Japan now has fewer children who are 14 or younger than at any time since 1908.

The proportion of children in the population fell to an all-time low of 13.5 percent. That number has been falling for 34 straight years and is the lowest among 31 major countries, according to the report. In the United States, children account for about 20 percent of the population.

Japan also has a surfeit of the elderly. About 22 percent of the population is 65 or older, the highest proportion in the world. And that number is on the rise. By 2020, the elderly will outnumber children by nearly 3 to 1, the government report predicted. By 2040, they will outnumber them by nearly 4 to 1.

The economic and social consequences of these trends are difficult to overstate.

Japan, now the world's second-largest economy, will lose 70 percent of its workforce by 2050 and economic growth will slow to zero, according to a report this year by the nonprofit Japan Center for Economic Research.

Population shrinkage began three years ago and is gathering pace. Within 50 years, the population, now 127 million, will fall by a third, the government projects. Within a century, two-thirds of the population will be gone.

I find it difficult to fathom why some people continue to think over-population is going to be a bigger problem for the developed world than under-population.

See my related posts:

(HT Instapundit)

1 comment:

DANIEL said...

I return to an earlier post to question your logic here (your post on Landsberg).

There is an implicit assumption that:
1) "People solve problems, and when there are more people, more problems get solved."
2)"The reason you are wealthier than your grandparents, and the reason your grandchildren will be wealthier than you, is that each generation free rides on the inventiveness of its ancestors."

These are both highly suspect statements. Anyone who has been to India or China knows that more people does not necessarily mean more problems are solved. One would need to define: a) what types of solutions we are talking about and b) what criteria we would mean by "solved"

#2 is more interesting but still suspect. Given the catastrophic decline of certain whole societies (see here Myanmar, Dem. Republic of the Congo) or even portions of societies (e.g., Brazil, China) future generations may or may not be wealthier. There is an assumption of material progress here that is simply not teneable. If the WHO quantitative studies can be trusted 1/6 of the world's population lives on less than $1 per day. There is no guarantee that the next generations will be richer than these--in fact, in our hemisphere many countries are in fact poorer in 2008 than in 1980.