As of June 2008, Japan's population is around 127.7 million, making it the world's tenth most populated country. Its size can be attributed to fast growth rates experienced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
However more recently Japan has been experiencing net population loss, due to falling birth rates and almost no net immigration. Japan is also noted for ethnic homogeneity, high population densities and for having one of the highest life expectancies in the world, at 81.25 years of age as of 2006. The share of 65-85 years old residents is expected to rise from 6% to 15% by 2025.
Japanese citizenship is conferred jus sanguinis, and monolingual Japanese-speaking minorities often reside in Japan for generations under permanent residency status without acquiring citizenship in their country of birth, although legally they are allowed to do so. Some 10,000 Zainichi Koreans naturalize every year. Approximately 98.6% of the population is pure Japanese (though technically this figure includes all naturalized people regardless of race) and 99% of the population speak Japanese as their first language.
National and regional governments devote resources to making regional cities and rural areas more attractive by developing transportation networks, social services, industry, and educational institutions in attempts to decentralize settlement and improve the quality of life. Nevertheless, major cities, especially Tokyo, Yokohama and Chiba and, to a lesser extent, Kyoto,Osaka and Kobe, remain attractive to young people seeking education and jobs.
Like other postindustrial countries, Japan faces the benefits as well as potential drawbacks associated with an aging population. While young populations such as those in sub-Saharan Africa inevitably face problems of crime, poverty, and underdevelopment, older populations enjoy a much higher quality of life. In 1989, only 11.6% of the population was 65 years or older, but projections were that 25.6% would be in that age category by 2030. However, those estimates now seem low given that 21.2% (as of April 2007) are already 65 and over, now the world's highest. The change will have taken place in a shorter span of time than in any other country.
This aging of the population was brought about by a combination of low fertility and high life expectancies (i.e. low mortality). In 1993 the birth rate was estimated at 10.3 per 1,000 population, and the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime has been fewer than two since the late 1970s (the average number was estimated at 1.5 in 1993). Family planning was nearly universal, with condoms and legal abortions the main forms of birth control. A number of factors contributed to the trend toward small families: high education, devotion to raising healthy children, late marriage, increased participation of women in the labor force, small living spaces, education about the problems of overpopulation, and the high costs of child education. Life expectancies at birth, 76.4 years for males and 82.2 years for women in 1993, were the highest in the world. (The expected life span at the end of World War II, for both males and females, was 50 years.) The mortality rate in 1993 was estimated at 7.2 per 1,000 population. The leading causes of death are cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease, a pattern common to postindustrial societies.
Public policy, the media, and discussions with private citizens revealed a high level of concern for the implications of one in four persons in Japan being 65 or older. By 2025 the dependency ratio (the ratio of people under age 15 plus those 65 and older to those age 15–65, indicating in a general way the ratio of the dependent population to the working population) was expected to be two dependents for every three workers. This actually a quite low dependency ratio, for example, Uganda has 1.3 dependents for every one worker. The aging of the population was already becoming evident in the aging of the labor force and the shortage of young workers in the late-1980s, with potential impacts on employment practices, wages and benefits, and the roles of women in the labor force. The increasing proportion of elderly people also had a major impact on government spending. Millions of dollars are saved every year on education and on health care and welfare for children. As recently as the early-1970s, social expenditures amounted to only about 6% of Japan's national income. In 1992 that portion of the national budget was 18%, and it was expected that by 2025, 27% of national income would be spent on social welfare.
In addition, the median age of the elderly population was rising in the late 1980s. The proportion of people age 65–85 was expected to increase from 6% in 1985 to 15% in 2025. Because the incidence of chronic disease increases with age, the health care and pension systems are expected to come under severe strain. In the mid-1980s the government began to reevaluate the relative burdens of government and the private sector in health care and pensions, and it established policies to control government costs in these programs. Recognizing the lower probability that an elderly person will be residing with an adult child and the higher probability of any daughter or daughter-in-law's participation in the paid labor force, the government encouraged establishment of nursing homes, day-care facilities for the elderly, and home health programs. Longer life spans are altering relations between spouses and across generations, creating new government responsibilities, and changing virtually all aspects of social life.
In the 1980s, government policy provided support for new urban development away from the large cities, particularly Tokyo, and assisted regional cities to attract young people to live and work there. Regional cities offered familiarity to those from nearby areas, lower costs of living, shorter commutes, and, in general, a more relaxed life-style then could be had in larger cities. Young people continued to move to large cities, however, to attend universities and find work, but some returned to regional cities (a pattern known as U-turn) or to their prefecture of origin (a pattern referred to as J-turn).
Government statistics show that in the 1980s significant numbers of people left the largest central cities (Tokyo and Osaka) to move to suburbs within their metropolitan areas. In 1988 more than 500,000 people left Tokyo, which experienced a net loss through migration of nearly 73,000 for the year. Osaka had a net loss of nearly 36,000 in the same year. However, the prefectures showing the highest net growth are located near the major urban centers, such as Saitama, Chiba, Ibaraki, and Kanagawa around Tokyo, and Hyogo, Nara, and Shiga near Osaka and Kyoto. This pattern suggests a process of suburbanization, people moving away from the cities for affordable housing but still commuting there for work and recreation, rather than a true decentralization.
Japan, though not known for its immigrant population, does have a range of foreigners and emigrants living within its borders. Japan has a total of 200,000-some residents of European (including the risen presence of Eastern Europeans and Russians in the late 1980s and 1990s) and North American nationalities (esp. Americans and Canadians), but most are temporary residents and a small percentage are naturalized citizens. Japan has relatively small populations of foreign-born Asians: Chinese, Filipinos, Indonesians, Thais and Vietnamese, the majority arrived since the 1970s, but peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. Asian immigration rates, although smaller when compared to immigration into the U.S. or Europe, remain steady. In the 1990s and early-2000s, Japanese diplomats signed agreements with South Asian country officials to obtain an estimated 50,000 temporary "guest workers", to work in Japan (e.g., Bangladesh, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India). Similar guest-worker agreements with Latin American countries, such as Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico and Peru has brought another 50,000 foreigners to Japan, including Latin Americans of Japanese descent who might culturally assimilate into the Japanese population.
During the Tokugawa period, such people were required to live in special buraku and, like the rest of the population, were bound by sumptuary laws based on the inheritance of social class. The Meiji government abolished most derogatory names applied to these discriminated communities in 1871, but the new laws had little effect on the social discrimination faced by the former outcasts and their descendants. The laws, however, did eliminate the economic monopoly they had over certain occupations. The buraku continue to be treated as social outcasts and some casual interactions with the majority caste was perceived taboo until the era after World War II.
Although members of these discriminated communities are physically indistinguishable from other Japanese, they often live in urban ghettoes or in the traditional special hamlets in rural areas. Some attempt to pass as ordinary Japanese, but the checks on family background that are often part of marriage arrangements and employment applications make this difficult. Estimates of their number range from 2 million to 4 million, or about 2% to 3% of the national population.
Ordinary Japanese claimed that membership in these discriminated communities can be surmised from the location of the family home, occupation, dialect, or mannerisms and, despite legal equality, continued to discriminate against people they surmised to be members of this group. Past and current discrimination has resulted in lower educational attainment and socioeconomic status among hisabetsu buraku than among the majority of Japanese. Movements with objectives ranging from "liberation" to encouraging integration have tried over the years to change this situation.
Although no longer in daily use, the Ainu language is preserved in epics, songs, and stories transmitted orally over succeeding generations. Distinctive rhythmic music and dances and some Ainu festivals and crafts are preserved, but mainly in order to take advantage of tourism.
In 2005 there were 1,555,505 foreign residents permanently residing in Japan, representing 1.22% of the Japanese population.
A significant portion of these foreign residents are in fact the descendants of Korean and Chinese labourers, who, in many cases, despite being born in Japan and only speaking Japanese, are not necessarily classed as Japanese citizens. Most Koreans in Japan, however, have never been to the Korean Peninsula and do not speak Korean.
All non-Japanese without special residential status (people whose residential root go back to pre WWII) are required by law to register with the government and carry alien registration cards. From the early 1980s, a civil disobedience movement encouraged refusal of the fingerprinting that accompanied registration every five years. Those people who opposed fingerprinting argued that it was discriminatory because the only Japanese who were fingerprinted were criminals. The courts upheld fingerprinting, but the law was changed so that fingerprinting was done once rather than with each renewal of the registration.
|Year||Population (July est.)||Growth rate (est.)|
|Year||Birth rate (est.): births/1000 pop.||Death rate (est.): deaths/1000 pop.||Net migration rate (est.): migrants/1000 pop.|
Age structure: (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
Life expectancy at birth:
Total fertility rate:
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Foreign Citizens: More than 2.5 million (possibly higher because of the illegal immigrants), 14.9% up in five years. North and South Koreans 1 million, Chinese 0.5 million, Filipinos 0.5 million, Brazilians 250,000 and Peruvians 200,000. Other nationalities (examples): Americans, Canadians, British, Indonesians, Thais, Africans, Iranians, Russians, Turks, Indians and others.
Religion: No reliable statistics exist since census does not have questions regarding religion. See Religion in Japan.
Net migration rate:
Language: Japanese. Chinese, Korean, and Filipino, and English.
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
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