Japan faces a significant population crisis over the next century, said the Japanese Health, Labour and Welfare ministry on Monday, after government forecasts estimated that the population would shrink by nearly a third of its current size by 2060.
According to projections done by the ministry's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s current population is likely to decline from 127.7 million to 86.7 million within the next 48 years. Longer life expectancy also means that Japanese over 65 years of age would make up 40 percent of the population by then.
"If conditions remain unchanged", Japan’s population may even decrease to 42.9 million by 2110, said the report, with the country’s average fertility rate of 1.39 babies unable to keep up with its mortality rate.
Part of the problem for Japan has been the declining interest among its youth to start a family or engage in relationships.
According to a survey conducted by the Japan Family Planning Association, 36 percent of Japanese males aged 16 to 19 said that they had 'no interest' in or even 'despised' sex. A whopping 59 percent of female respondents aged 16 to 19 also responded that they were uninterested in or averse to sex.
Government campaigns, such as providing more child allowance and making companies insist that their staff leave work at 6 pm, have also failed to reverse the disturbing trend over the last 20 years, with Dr. Kunio Kitamura, head of the Japan Family Planning Association admitting that, "none of that is gong to have an impact if people are not going to have sex."
As a result, Japan is now the world’s fastest aging country, with tax and social security reforms expected to play a major role in the government’s policy thinking over the foreseeable future.
Related: Japan Economy
Related: Japan Economic Structure
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has already pledged to double a 5 percent sales tax in two stages by October 2015 in order to fund social security costs, which has been rising by 1 trillion yen ($13 billion) every year and aggravating a public debt already twice the size of Japan's $5 trillion economy.
"Pension programmes, employment and labour policy and the social security system in this country are not designed to reflect such rapidly progressing population decline," said Noriko Tsuya, a demography expert at Keio University, on public broadcaster NHK.
"The government needs to urgently revise the system and implement new measures based on the estimate."