Japan’s population is aging rapidly, with almost 30 percent of its citizens now over the age of 65. Since the 1970s, the country has experienced more deaths than births, leading to a significant decline in population. Michael Cucek, an expert in politics and Asian studies at Temple University in Tokyo, has been studying Japan’s demographics for years. He highlighted that Japan lost 800,000 people in population last year alone, signaling a crisis that has been brewing for over five decades.

Massey University Emeritus Professor Paul Spoonley warns that New Zealand is not far behind Japan in facing similar demographic challenges. He emphasized the need for proactive measures to address this issue, stressing that Japan’s delayed response has brought them to a crisis point.

To understand the potential future for New Zealand, Newshub visited Tokyo to speak with experts like Cucek and his Japanese students. Yuri Suzuki expressed concerns about the ability to support the aging baby boomer population as they require more care. The demanding work culture in Japan, characterized by long hours, has also contributed to declining fertility rates, as noted by Juri Tanaka.

Japan’s population decline has far-reaching consequences. Every year, approximately 500 schools close, and by 2100, the population is projected to halve, falling to 63 million. This decline is affecting the labor market, with shortages impacting productivity and GDP growth. Prof. Spoonley highlighted the changing dependency ratio, where fewer workers support a growing number of retirees, leading to economic challenges.

Despite efforts to increase birth rates through policies and incentives, Japan has seen limited success. The rising cost of living and concerns about childcare affordability deter many from starting families. Mao Okamoto expressed her desire for children but worries about financial constraints.

As the population shrinks, there is a surplus of housing, leading to abandoned buildings and ghost towns, particularly in rural areas. Tanaka has witnessed these impacts firsthand and believes New Zealand could face similar challenges.

Prof. Spoonley advocates for immigration as part of the solution. Unlike Japan, New Zealand has embraced immigration as a means to offset aging demographics and declining fertility rates. He emphasizes the need for long-term planning and comprehensive population policies to address these demographic shifts effectively.

In conclusion, New Zealand must learn from Japan’s experience and take proactive steps to address its own demographic challenges. Embracing immigration and implementing supportive policies for families are crucial in ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come.