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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #127: May 6, 2003

Children comprise record low 14.1% of population

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Children comprise record low 14.1% of population"
(The Japan Times)


The "Golden Week", called "goe-ru-den wee-ku" in Japanese as well, starts on April 29 and ends on May 5, where there are four official national holidays during this seven day period.

The last day of the string of holidays, May 5, is the Children's Day. It follows the old tradition of the Festival of Iris, which falls on this day on an old lunar calendar to celebrate boys' growth. (For those who are sensitive to these matters, there is a day to celebrate girls' growth, on March 3, called the Festival of Peach Blossoms. When they conceived the idea to celebrate children officially, May 5 was chosen for various reasons such as the season for a holiday, and dubbed it Children's Day.)

Japan should revive the old tradition of the communities, especially at local levels, to celebrate the sheer existence of healthy children in their society, and should promote such notion as one of the supreme political objectives for national and regional governments.

It has become a common knowledge that children in Japan is decreasing. It is possible, however, that the successful dissemination of this information has had an adverse effect. Recently, people would not respond to the "old" news of declining younger population as they have become so used to it, and are nullified to the information and warning pertaining to the topic.

As cited in the article, the percentage of children under 15 fell for the 22nd year in a row, to 14 percent of the population. The ratio was 37% in 1920 when the first census was taken, and became 24% in 1970 when Japan was considered to have become one of the advanced countries. Internationally, the ratio is 21% for the US and Korea, 19% for the UK and France, and as the lowest among the industrialized countries, Italy is similar to Japan, at 14%.

The number is especially alarming when Japan as an aging society is considered. The ratio of population over 65 years of age is presently at 15%, which is comparable to many European countries. But the number is expected to rise to 32% by 2050, making Japan possibly the country with the largest share of aged people.

Certainly, listening to the same story for 22 years is not a very stimulating experience. But people should take this seriously, as if listening to diagnoses of a progressive disease that would become fatal unless some sort of antidote is provided soon and persistently.

One additional aspect should be kept in mind. Japan has had no policy with regard to immigrants. Where many European and American countries have experienced inflow of various sorts of immigrants, Japan has not needed to face the task of coping with them. The issue is, needless to say, a very difficult one, socially, politically, and economically. The time is running out for Japan to sort out this matter before the whole society is to experience a chaos generated by ever increasing, and very often unwanted and illegal, de-facto immigrants.

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