By Dessireth Arianna Morales Salazar - Student of the School of General Studies
Japan is suffering from a phenomenon known as demographic contraction, which means the precipitous reduction of its population. According to BBC Mundo (2016), a census conducted in 2015 on this country revealed that in the last five years the population decreased by almost one million inhabitants, being 0.7% less than in the census of the year 2010, thus marking the Japan's first population growth contraction since the censuses were implemented in 1920. This phenomenon is due to the low birth rate, coupled with the rapid increase in the aging population, which contributes to a prolonged economic stagnation and increase in health costs.
Japan is one of the countries with the oldest population worldwide. According to Datosmacro (n.d), in 2018 12.84% of the population represent inhabitants between the ages of 0 and 14, 59.68% symbolize people between 15 and 64, and finally 27.47% represent people over 64 years old. Also, the birth rate is only 7.6%, one of the lowest in the world. A country in which its population ages implies a decrease in the labor force and an increase in pensioners or government dependents, and that directly affects the country's economy. In the 1980s, Japan had the lowest dependency rate for the elderly (it means the relationship between the elderly or retired population and the working population) of the G7. After a period of increase in the rate of aging, in 2005 its dependency rate for the elderly became the highest in the G7 and currently continues to increase (Hasenstab, 2015).
Hasenstab (2015) also states that the speed of aging population in Japan has important consequences for healthcare expenses and pensions, and significantly reduces the country's workforce. It is estimated that by 2050 about 40% of the total population of Japan will be over 64 years old (BBC Mundo, 2016). Because of this problem, Japan’s government will have to take economic decisions which main purpose is to guard against a financial crisis as a product of the lack of economic force, and the increasing of their population dependency rate (aged population). León (2016) affirms that when the labor force population is reduced, the social security system is destabilized because within the dependent population there would be retired people, pensioners for health problems, among others.
Directly, health services get in pain because the senile population tends to suffer from diseases more frequently compared to the young population, which causes public spending on health services to increase, in addition to the increased demand for Hospital centers. As the Banco Mundial (2016) mentions, as the elderly population of a country increases, the percentage of the gross domestic product directed to health and citizen protection services increase.
In the case of Japan, since the percentage of the aged population is growing, there is a possibility that the country may suffer a financial crisis due to the high costs of health and public protection systems. When the working population of a country is reduced, the capacity of the economy to meet the needs of the government dependent people also decreases, affecting the economy and social development capacity of a country. The alarming percentage of the elderly population in Japan makes evident the need to develop and implement to face the aging of the population in the country and prevent an imminent economic crisis.