In This Review

Japan's Population Implosion: The 50 Million Shock
Japan's Population Implosion: The 50 Million Shock
By Yoichi Funabashi
Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, 235 pp

Japan’s birthrate of 1.43 children per woman, which is far below the level necessary to replace the current population, is causing the country to age and its economy to falter. As the country’s welfare needs grow, the government’s capacity to meet them is declining. Smaller cities can no longer afford to pay for adequate public services, pushing young people to move to a few big cities, such as Tokyo, and stranding older people in solitary environments. Today, Japan is a major power of 127 million people who enjoy high living standards; by the end of this century, it could be a minor power of 50 million people who are relatively poor. This book, by a panel of experts, recommends that the government let older people work longer and that it protect the vitality of select smaller cities by encouraging business investment and improving access to health care, education, and other public services. The book’s contributors also urge the government to offer economic incentives to couples to have more children and create policies to improve people’s work-life balance. Such steps, they argue, might prevent the population from falling below around 80 million by the end of the century. But the authors refrain from suggesting major changes to Japan’s restrictive immigration policies. They seem to believe that Japanese society is too homogeneous to absorb foreigners as readily as other big developed countries do.