Nearly 1 in 1,500 people in Japan now aged 100 or above - Data report

Nearly 1 in 1,500 people in Japan is now aged 100 years or above, according to new data from the Japanese Government.
By Emeh Joy

Nearly 1 in 1,500 people in Japan is now aged 100 years or above, according to new data from the Japanese Government.

According to figures from Japan's Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry, the number of centenarians went above 80,000 for the first time this year.

This makes it the 50th consecutive annual rise and also the biggest rise in the number of centenarians till date.

Japan has the world's oldest population

The Asian country, Japan, has the highest number of older adults as people live longer there.

As of Tuesday, 15 September 2020, there were 80,450 people aged 100 or older (9,176) more than last year. This figure equates to one centenarian to every 1,565 persons.

The data also showed that Japanese women are far more likely than men to live for a century or more, as they made up about 88% of all centenarians.

Japan has a fast-ageing population, and average life expectancy for citizens of the country have also been recorded to be high.

On average, women are expected to live 87.45 years while men are expected to live 81.41 years, according to government figures released in July.

Japans started as far back as 1963 to begin documenting the number of centenarians. At that time, there were only about 153 people aged 100 or above in the country. But by 1988, the number had increased to 10,000.

A brief overview of Japan's population and demographic trend

Japan is said to be experiencing a "super-ageing society" both in its urban and rural areas, according to Wikipedia. In 2014, about 25.9 per cent of the Japanese population were aged 65 or above while and about 12.5 per cent were aged 75 years or above.

This data meant that as of the same year, people aged 65 or above made up a quarter of the Japanese population and this is estimated to reach a third by 2050.

Japan's population from 1920 to 2010, with population projections up to 2060. Source: Wikipedia

Japan experienced a post-war baby boom in 1947-1949. However, in 1948, the country legalised abortion under special conditions. The law allowed the involuntary sterilisation of babies with certain disabilities like intellectual incapacitation until it was overturned in 1996.

This was followed by a period of low fertility which contributed to Japan's ageing population. The nation's population which was estimated at 127 million as of 2014 is expected to reduce to 107 million (16 per cent reduction) in 2040 and to 97 million (24 per cent reduction) by 2050 if the current trend should continue.

However, the government of Japan is currently seeking ways to redress the issue and respond to concerns regarding the impact of this demographic change to the social services and economy of the nation.

Why does Japan have a higher ageing population?

When asked the secret for long life, Japan's oldest person, Kane Tanaka, had said eating good food and practising math had been her secrets.

117-year-old Tanaka, who is from Fukuoka, was confirmed as the world's oldest person by Guinness World Records last year.

She was born in 1903 and now lives in a nursing home where she usually wakes up as early as 6 a.m and enjoys playing the strategic board game, Othello, according to CNN report.

But what exactly has caused the higher ageing of the Japanese population?

According to the Wikipedia report, it placed the cause of the ageing of the population in Japan on the nation having the highest life expectancy and on the fact that it has the lowest fertility rates too.

The World Health Organization also cited these two reasons (high life expectancy and low fertility rates) as the cause of the general global population ageing. It said that this demographic change had caused the increasing number of people who are over 60.

In 2060, over-65s will account for 38% of Japan's population

Among some of the things that contributed to the decline in childbirth in the late 20th century in Japan are urbanisation, higher education, later and fewer marriages, more participation of women in the workforce and high cost of raising children.

The high life expectancy which went high from the end of World War II was attributed to improvements in nutrition and medicine. Improvements in both nutrition and medicine saw the population of people aged 65 and above increase steadily from the 1950s.

According to an article on CNN Health, Okinawa, an island in the Asian country has the highest number of centenarians. A close look at the lifestyle in the Island revealed that people there ( including the elderly) live an active life.

The residents would always be seen riding bikes, gardening in their yards, doing tai chi in the park and playing other games with their friends.

Unarguable, the elders there are much less likely to develop certain medical conditions like dementia, heart disease and cancer when compared to their counterparts in the United States.

The Japanese generally live an active life and have a rich food culture

Asides the part of imbibing an active lifestyle, the Okinawans in Japan are known to have a valuable food culture where they eat fewer calories and reduce food sizes.

They are said to eat more than seven different foods and vegetable a day and 18 different foods a day. This means their overall diet would have not less than 200 different foods and spices which they incorporated into their diet every day.

What is the effect of Japan's ageing society on the Japanese economy?

Two aspects of Japan's ageing population is that while the number of the elderly is increasing, the younger who make up the labour force of a nation are declining.

The higher the elderly population, the greater the transfer of income between generations; thus, the fiscal burden rises, a report on ScienceDirect says.

The increase in the elderly population affects the economic performance of Japan by increasing the social security burden while the slow growth of the population (due to reduced fertility rate) directly impacts the nation's economic growth by reducing the labour force.

More population in Japan are retiring and leaving the workforce, thus causing a reduction in the labour force (and the labour force is the major factor in production).

What the Japan government is doing to address the economical impact of the ageing population

The former nation's leader, Shinzo Abe who recently retired due to ill health, had started out a path which he termed, "Womenomics".

The concept of 'Womenomics' was designed to push companies to hire more women and give leadership positions to women under-tightening higher labour force participation.

The former Japan Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe introduced the concept of "Womenomics" before he retired due to ill health

Since the male labour force wouldn't serve the nation, Shinzo Abe brought up this concept to have more women fixed into the workforce to complement the males.

The nation also came up with the idea of allowing more foreign workers into the country in a controlled manner. A new regulation was set up, which became effective in 2019. The regulation created two residence/visa status types for foreigners working in the sectors with much lesser number of workforce.

Abe's administration also worked towards supporting young couples raise their children through strategies like providing free preschool education, all in the bid to tackle the ageing population crisis.

Other nations with the highest percentage of people aged 60 or above

Japan is not the only nation with a super-ageing population; however, it is the first country on the list.

Countries with the largest population of seniors aged 60 or above Source: Global Agenda Council on Ageing Society

The World Health Organization in its report did point out that between 2015 and 2050 the proportion of the world's population who are over 60 years will nearly double from 12 per cent to 22 per cent.

All countries are at risk of population ageing, however, according to a post on the World Economic Forum platform, the country with the highest percentage of people aged 60 or above is Japan, followed by Italy.

Other countries listed as having the highest percentage of older people include Germany, Finland, Sweden, Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal, Croatia and Channel Islands, UK.

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