By Carlos Esteban
The journalist’s curse is that he can never report what is really important more than in the aftermath, because what is important is rarely immediate.
Throughout the world, and especially in the developed world, we are already facing a population abyss that promises to bring enormous problems in the not too distant future, a future that, in fact, is already beginning to affect the countries that previously entered the birth crisis, as is the case in Japan.
Japan is dying, of old age.
I’m not saying it; it’s not just the numbers that say it.
The country’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has just said it, alarmed: “Japan is on the brink of not being able to continue functioning as a society.”
It is, Kishida says, a “now or never” situation.
It is time to “focus all attention on a birth promotion policy”, something that cannot “wait or be postponed”, he adds, after admitting that Japan is in a critical position as a society due to the plummeting the natality.
Japan, with 125 million inhabitants, had only 800,000 births in 2022, when in the 1970s more than two million were born each year.
And Japan is not at all a unique case.
The entire first world is the same, starting with its own Asian neighbors, but with several important differences.
First, Japan began the descent into demographic winter earlier.
Second, life expectancy in Japan has increased dramatically with its economic development, and that means huge numbers of retirees having to feed a dwindling workforce.
After tiny and statistically insignificant Monaco, Japan is the country with the highest proportion of people over 65, according to World Bank data.
Kishida wants to eventually double public spending on children, establishing in April a state agency dedicated exclusively to this purpose.
Neither is he the first Japanese politician to warn of this slow-motion social suicide, nor the first to approve measures to alleviate it, always with disappointing results.
There are no real incentives to start a family and have children.
No matter how great the economic incentives are – and, of course, they have a limit – it is difficult for them to outweigh the costs of raising children, not to mention the sacrifices that are not so easily quantifiable.
If there are no other compelling reasons to have children, a bit of official change is not going to change the picture substantially.
As the first symptom of the disease, the real wage has not grown for 30 years, which has given neighbors such as South Korea and Taiwan time to surpass Japan in this regard.
In our environment, we know the standard response from our rulers: don’t bother having children, we will bring labor from Africa to pay your pensions.
But in Japan they don’t even want to hear about this way out, even less seeing the problems of social fracture and permanent conflict that it generates in societies that are resorting to this form of population replacement.
Not even the terrifying outlook has changed Japanese opinion in this regard, and even today only 3% of the Japanese population has been born abroad compared to, for example, 15% of the British population.
With information from LGI