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In Japan like most industrial countries the rate of new children is falling to record lows.   Numbers released for 2010 show that Japan had 1.19 million deaths ( the biggest number since 1947 when the health ministry’s annual records began) and 1.07 million births.  With more deaths than births that means the Japanese population shrunk by 123,000 people.  It gets worse when you look at numbers for kids in Japan.  According the The Daily Mainichi a recent Japanese census shows that the number of children under the age of 15 in Japan dropped 190,000 from a year earlier to 16.94 million as of April 1, marking a record low for the 29th straight year. Japan has the lowest % of children in countries over 40 million.   Things aren’t looking any better in the future as marriage rates are falling too.  In 2010 there were 706,000 marriages registered — the fewest since 1954.  Other countries offset this declining birthrate by allowing immigrants which increases the amount of young, tax paying, workers in the country but Japan refuses to allow any large scale immigration (only 2 percent of the population here is foreign) and those they do allow in are leaving as the economy suffers.  Records from the Justice Ministry show the number of registered foreign residents in Japan as of the end of 2010 was down 51,970 from a year earlier to 2,134,151, falling for the second consecutive year.

UPDATE – Post 3-11 Earthquake
Japanese Immigration reported that “the number of foreigners flying out from March 11 to March 22 totaled 161,300 — an eightfold increase from about 20,000 in the same period last year.” We won’t know how many of those were long term residents and if they eventually came back till 2012.

What makes things worse is that the Japanese refuse to accept any measures that would increase the birth rate.  Having a child in Japan is expensive as it is not a disease thus not covered by the national Health Care system. Also, those worrying about the Japanese slump which has plagued the country for the last few decades have put off having a child until the economy picks up. Some have even given up, creating a class of women and men who don’t want children or even marriage.

Recently they have tried to open the immigration door a crack by allowing Filipino and Indonesian students into the country under a special program to study for a Japanese nursing license but of the three hundred allowed entry only 3 passed up from zero the year before. This has led to allegations that the Japanese government is stacking the system to prevent nurses from gaining entry. And it seems to be working, potential Filipino and Indonesian nurses have given up getting work in Japan and are instead setting their sites on China and Singapore.

So Japan still penalizes new families with high labour and pre-natal costs preventing a baby boom while at the same time conservative Japanese culture turns off potential mothers from starting a family (Japan is ranked 32nd in the world to be a mother). It prevents immigration and stonewalls foreign worker programs by using tests that are based around the knowledge of archaic Chinese Kanji.

So just how is Japan going to A) care for its greying population and B) pay for its greying population. Well it seems like they’re putting all their eggs in one basket and hoping for a breakthrough in … robots. At the Shanghai High Expo Japan in the hope of entering the Chinese market, Japanese manufacturers are showcasing robots that have already been put to practical use in the nursing and welfare fields in Japan. Japan hopes to become a nation supported by robots as the new cheap labour force. Picture thousands of robots slowly taking over each sector of the Japanese workforce, looking for Sarah Connor … yeap nothing bad could happen there….

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