Japan will ‘disappear’ without crackdown on births, PM Fumio Kishida’s adviser warns
Japan will cease to exist if it cannot slow its declining birth rate, which threatens to wreck the social safety net and economy, according to an adviser to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
“If we keep going like this, the country will disappear,” Masako Mori said in an interview in Tokyo after Japan made the announcement on 28 February. “It is the people who have to go through the disappearance process who will suffer the greatest loss. This is a terrible disease that will affect those children,” she added.
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Last year, nearly twice as many people died in Japan as were born, with fewer than 800,000 births and about 1.58 million deaths. A worried Kishida has vowed to double spending on children and families to control the slide, which is progressing faster than forecast.
The population has fallen from a peak of 128 million in 2008 to 124.6 million, and the pace of decline is increasing. Meanwhile the proportion of people 65 or over increased last year to more than 29%. While South Korea has a low fertility rate, Japan’s population is declining rapidly.
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“It’s not falling slowly, it’s going straight down,” said Mori, an upper house lawmaker and former minister who advises Kishida on the birthrate problem and LGBTQ issues. “The nose means that children born now will be thrown into a society that deforms, shrinks and loses its ability to function.”
If nothing is done, the social security system will collapse, industrial and economic strength will collapse and there will not be enough recruits for the self-defense forces to protect the country, he said.
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Mori said that because of the decline in the number of women of child-bearing age it will now be extremely difficult to reverse the slide, adding that the government should do everything it can to help slow the plunge and minimize the damage.
Kishida has not yet announced the contents of his new spending package, but said it would be “on a different dimension” from previous policies. So far he has mentioned increasing child allowance, improving childcare provision and changing working styles.
But critics argue that throwing money at families who have children is not enough to address the problem. A paper by a government panel on gender equality says wider changes are needed, including reducing the burden of child-rearing on women and making it easier for them to participate in the workforce after giving birth.
Mori criticized the tendency to think of the issue as separate from finance, business, and especially women’s empowerment.
“Women empowerment and birth rate policies are the same,” she said. “If you deal with these things separately, it will not be effective.”