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Economy in Brief

Demographic Shifts in Japan
by Carol Stone July 20, 2004

Monthly population estimates for Japan were reported today as of July 1 by the Japanese Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Post & Telecommunications. The new data reveal a small outright decline in the population of Japan this year from July 2003. Details are not yet available, but the decline may owe to foreign visitors or workers leaving the country, rather than to a decrease in the number of Japanese people. Even so, patterns of births and deaths through January (which were reported yesterday) imply a slight natural decrease.

Another major force in Japanese demographics is the rapidly increasing size of the elderly population. As indicated in the table below, women over age 75 constitute more than 10-1/2% of the total population of women; this share has increased almost 4 percentage points in the last ten years. The number of elderly men is also gaining; their share of the total male population has risen 2-1/2 percentage points since 1994 to 6.5% in July.

By comparison, the population of the US is growing at about 1% a year. Older Americans are also increasing, but much more gradually as a share of the total population than in Japan. Growing numbers of the elderly increase conditions of dependency in the economies of these two nations and others as well. Japan's rates are higher now, but as the US "Baby Boomers" age, the share of elderly will go up markedly here too.

10 Thousand People July 2004 July 2003 July 2002 July 2001 July 1994
Japan: Total 12761 12765 12740 12713 12496
Yr/Yr % Change -0.03 0.20 0.21 0.20 0.21*
Female 6537 6534 6516 6497 6367
Yr/Yr % Change 0.05 0.28 0.29 0.17 0.26*
% over Age 75 10.6 10.1 9.7 9.3 6.8
Male 6224 6231 6224 6216 6129
Yr/Yr % Change -0.11 0.11 0.13 0.24 0.15*
% over Age 75 6.5 6.1 5.8 5.4 4.0
           
United States: Total 29292** 29081 28797 28509 26313
Yr/Yr % Change 0.97** 0.98 1.01 1.03 1.11*
% over Age 75 N.A. 6.0 6.0 6.0 5.5
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