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Percentage of Elderly In Japan Continues to Grow as Number of Children Drops

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the older-every-day dept.

Japan 283

First time accepted submitter Cornelie Roe (3627609) writes in with some bad news about the population of Japan. "The number of children in Japan has fallen to a new low, while the amount of people over 65 has reached a record high as the population ages and shrinks, the government said. There were an estimated 16.33 million children aged under 15 as of 1 April, down 160,000 from a year earlier, the internal affairs and communications ministry said on Sunday. It was the 33rd straight annual decline and the lowest level since records began in 1950. Children accounted for 12.8% of the population, the ministry said. By contrast, the ratio of people aged 65 or older was at a record high, making up 25.6% of the population. Jiji Press said that, of countries with a population of at least 40 million, Japan had the lowest ratio of children to the total population – compared with 19.5% for the United States and 16.4% for China. Last month, the government said the number of people in the world's third largest economy dropped by 0.17% to 127,298,000 as of 1 October 2013. This includes long-staying foreigners. The proportion of people aged 65 or over is forecast to reach nearly 40% in 2060, the government has warned."

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283 comments

As Margaret Sanger Slee always wanted (-1, Flamebait)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 2 months ago | (#46972429)

Or if the embedding doesn't work

The truth about Planned Parenthood's [youtu.be] International aims from the very beginning.

Re:As Margaret Sanger Slee always wanted (-1, Flamebait)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 2 months ago | (#46972447)

Embedding didn't work, Youtube Video linked above.
 
  Here is another one on the evils of children [youtube.com]

Re:As Margaret Sanger Slee always wanted (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 months ago | (#46973831)

Philip Morris commercial...

Re:As Margaret Sanger Slee always wanted (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972583)

It's climate Change!

All the deniers need to pull their heads out of there asses or we will have to make them!

Revolution!

Re:As Margaret Sanger Slee always wanted (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972589)

"I suppose a subject like that is so personal that it's entirely up to the parents to decide" is "calling for a ban"? I think you need to adjust your meds.

Re:As Margaret Sanger Slee always wanted (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 months ago | (#46972843)

You want everyone reading this to have to download a Flash player (or HTML5 video that consumes just as much data) just to watch your crank video? Take your embedding and stick it up your ass.

Thank goodness Dice hasn't fucked up Slashdot enough yet that your embedding would have worked.

Jiji press? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972457)

How appropriate. :P

Re:Jiji press? (5, Informative)

EuclideanSilence (1968630) | about 2 months ago | (#46973735)

...for those who haven't seen 10000 hours of anime (shame on you), JIJI is japanese slang for a man old enough to be a grandfather. It's like saying "old fart".

Re:Jiji press? (5, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 2 months ago | (#46973873)

Where I grew up, "old enough to be a grandfather" meant "30". Now my friends are having their first kids around 40.

Something pretty basic is broken with work-family balance IMO. It's great that we left "one parent works, the other does family" behind, but "both parents work, and neither does family" is even worse. As automation increases, and unemployment with it, you'd think we could move to shorter work weeks and "both parents work, and have plenty of time for family too"!

It's far easier medically to have kids in your 20s, and far easier to cope with their teenage years in your 30s than your 50s! Society needs to be built on more than just career, and I think we're getting it completely backwards with the ongoing division between workaholics and government-dependents.

This may be crass but... (5, Insightful)

ZorinLynx (31751) | about 2 months ago | (#46972463)

This may sound crass, but this is a problem that'll solve itself in a couple of decades, after which you'll have a much lower population on the island, which given the lack of space (especially in large cities) is probably a good thing.

There are way too many people on the planet in general. Breeding more is NOT the answer. Do the best we can to take care of our elders, and when they're gone, let's be more responsible about population growth going forward.

Re:This may be crass but... (5, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 months ago | (#46972493)

I would imagine that Japan's cities will stay as crowded as ever for a long time. As the population in the countryside thins out and becomes greyer, what young people there are will flock to the cities for better opportunities. So, you'll have densely populated cities and an increasingly empty rest of the country.

Look at Russia where the population has fallen significantly, but Moscow just keeps growing. If you visit the hopeless backwaters, all the young people there dream of leaving their collapsing communities for the big city.

Re:This may be crass but... (2)

Ardyvee (2447206) | about 2 months ago | (#46972567)

It seems something that the government could try to solve by trying to invest in these less-developed areas and turning them into attractive areas for industry and businesses, in turns making people want to live in the less populated areas. I have always found it odd that there is little push towards homogenizing the population and instead everyone just seems to head towards the one or two large cities, slowly getting overcrowded.

Re:This may be crass but... (4, Interesting)

afgam28 (48611) | about 2 months ago | (#46973335)

Having lived in both Japan and the US, I've noticed that people in Japan tend to think "living in a small town would be inconvenient because I wouldn't be able to get to a train" whereas people in the US tend to think "living in a big city would be inconvenient because I wouldn't be able to drive my car".

So the Japanese tend to be drawn towards large cities (about 60% live in one of the 3 biggest metro areas - Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya) and Americans tend to self-organize into a fairly uniformly sparse suburban environment.

It's interesting how people can't seem to see beyond their society's local maxima, but anyway this leads to vastly different ideas of what it means to be "overpopulated".

When I lived in Japan I didn't find it to be overpopulated at all, even in the middle of Tokyo. The high population density isn't a problem that needs solving - it's a defining characteristic that makes the city great, and has attracted 35 million people to live there. There are plenty of rural backwaters north of Tokyo in Tohoku but not many people want to live there.

So what for? If a society prefers large cities, why not let them self-organize into a two or three big cities? Which is what Japan has pretty much already done.

Re:This may be crass but... (3, Interesting)

iONiUM (530420) | about 2 months ago | (#46973635)

I've never lived in Japan, but I've visited there many times over the last decade, and I disagree that it isn't "overcrowded." I never felt like I could be alone in Tokyo (I.e. >20m from another human). In addition, have you even used the Tokyo Metro during rush hour? Shinjuku station? They really do use polls on people, and you're packed in like a goddamm sardine. That's not life, that's not living. That's being a meat popsicle. No thanks.

Re:This may be crass but... (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 months ago | (#46972707)

Read this book [amazon.com] (Planet of Slums) on how this is a world wide phenomena that is becoming increasingly intractable.

We're doomed.

What's wrong with slums? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973331)

The doctors in those areas always put out, they gave me 240 Lortab 10/500 for a paper cut.

Re:This may be crass but... (0)

marcgvky (949079) | about 2 months ago | (#46972565)

I have to agree with that post. The place is way over populated... Hopefully China and India will follow the trend.

Re:This may be crass but... (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about 2 months ago | (#46973361)

And the rest of Asia and America and Europe and .......
And actually they all indeed do.

Re:This may be crass but... (2)

HangingChad (677530) | about 2 months ago | (#46972869)

This may sound crass, but this is a problem that'll solve itself in a couple of decades

It's not crass, it's just a biological fact. That's what pisses me off about people attacking social security and medicare, that problem will solve itself over time. Expenses will climb to a peak and then level off as the population declines. By 2035 that big, fat swath of baby boomers will start running into the meat grinder of old age [gwu.edu] .

Focus on cost control and the actuarial tables will take care of the rest.

Re:This may be crass but... (0)

cold fjord (826450) | about 2 months ago | (#46972941)

So basically you're stating that those programs can't fulfill the promises made about them. That is clarity that needs to be more widely shared, especially among people that think that government can cure all of societies woes.

Does the economic chaos that will result from trying to meet the promises piss you off too?

You aren't in favor of Obamacare by any chance are you?

cars stop crashing when they're totaled (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about 2 months ago | (#46973035)

And after you total a car, it won't crash anymore.
If nothing unexpected happens, social security might be solvent in 2060, if it still existed. There's just that pesky fault that it can't exist in its current form part the 2030s. We know how many people are in their 40s today, so we know how many people will be in their 60s twenty years from now. From that, it is simple arithmetic to see that we don't have the money to pay those people as promised.

"Attacking social security"? Are you high? When you're about to crash into a wall, is steering around it "attacking" the car? We can see the wall. It's 20 years ahead of us. We WILL crash into the wall if we don't change course. To NOT ccorrect course is to choose to destroy social security, to drive full speed into the wall.

Re:cars stop crashing when they're totaled (1)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 2 months ago | (#46973063)

What change of course do you suggest to fix the problem ?

One change implemented two ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973255)

What change of course do you suggest to fix the problem ?

The one fundamental change that no one on either side of the aisle wants to whisper - decouple benefits from OASDI "contributions." Once we do that, then we can: apply OASDI tax on 100% of income (notice I didn't qualify that as "earned income") and pay a flat benefit that allows basic subsistence.

Without that change, Republicans (and many Democrats) claim we can't apply OASDI tax to any more of people's income because then we'd be "obligated" to pay out more after they retire. Without that change, when we talk about cutting benefits Democrats (and many Republicans) scream "I *earned* that!"

We need to acknowledge that it is a tax, not a contribution. We need to acknowledge that's its purpose in our society is (as it was when introduced) to be a basic safety net because we don't want our streets littered with starving homeless too-old-to-labor seniors, not to help retired folks continue to live in "the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed".

Re:One change implemented two ways (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 2 months ago | (#46973839)

So basically, tax the rich to the highest level they can bleed, and put all elderly on welfare.

Do you really not understand why neither side wants to implement that?

probably a few small changes to nip it in the bud (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 2 months ago | (#46973855)

There are of course many options. The main thing is, the longer we wait, the more extreme measures will be required. To continue the car analogy, we can either let off the gas pedal now, or slam on the brakes ten years from now. I think it's best to make small changes now.

Slightly raising the retirement age, gradually, can apparently solve the problem without a major disruption for anyone. Under current law, I would start receiving social security in 25 years, if it weren't for the fact that under current law the system will be broke at that time - there will be no money to pay my benefits with. I would much rather wait two extra years and be able to plan on actually receiving what is promised. Currently, I can't plan on anything, because I know that what is currently promised isn't actually possible. I don't have the exact numbers in front of me right now, but I was surprised at how small of an age adjustment fixes the problem. Something like:
Anyone due to get SS within the next five years will get them as planned.
Anyone 5-10 years away from retirement waits an extra six months, so if you were planning in 7 years, it'll instead be 7 1/2 years.
Anyone more than 10 years out starts receiving payments one year later than the current law.

IIt's unfortunate that the inflation index is such a political football. The index currently being used isn't accurate, and the person who CREATED that index says it shouldn't be used for this purpose. Chained CPI MAY be a more accurate indicator, or we could move beyond 1940s methodology and use the technological resources we now have available to come up with a new, better measure of inflation.

Re:cars stop crashing when they're totaled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973385)

so we know how many people will be in their 60s twenty years from now.

And the answer is "not as many as there were baby boomers".

When you're about to crash into a wall

Some people expect the car will coast to a stop just before it. They may be wrong.

is steering around it "attacking" the car?

Steering around it? No. Firing a .357 into the engine block? Yes.

"Steering around it" would be raising the retirement age so there would be fewer years of retired people to pay for.

"Attacking it" is saying "thanks for all your hard earned money, we made good use of it and now we're not going to bother paying back the IOUs so you won't get it back." It'd be interesting to see the knock-on effects of canceling the piggy bank for the rest of the government, too.

Re:This may be crass but... (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 2 months ago | (#46973151)

This may sound crass, but this is a problem that'll solve itself in a couple of decades

It's not crass, it's just a biological fact. That's what pisses me off about people attacking social security and medicare, that problem will solve itself over time.

There are Cayman Island bank accounts that can better use that money. You know, nothing like the invisible hand of the free market bitch slapping all those worthless old people.

Re:This may be crass but... (3, Interesting)

bluegutang (2814641) | about 2 months ago | (#46972923)

On the contrary, in a couple decades, things will be much worse in Japan. The number of retirees will rise, and the number of younger working people will decline. The ratio of retired to working people will rise, and there won't be anyone to pay for the medical care of the old people. That's a recipe for immense suffering, both personal and economic.

Japan currently averages about 1.4 kids per family. A stable, sustainable rate would be about 2.1 kids. (Not 2.0 because a small number will die before reaching reproductive age.) Japan's rate is much too low for a healthy society. Northern European countries have rates of 1.6-2.0 (plus some immigration of young people), while the US rate is 2.1 (plus some immigration). Those are healthy rates. Japan, for cultural reasons, is not even willing to supplement its 1.4 rate via immigration.

You are correct that the planet does not need any more human beings. But the solution is to decrease birth rates in Africa and South Asia (where they are as high as 7 kids per family in some countries), not to further decrease birth rates in Western countries, where they are already at or below sustainable levels.

Re:This may be crass but... (2)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 2 months ago | (#46973323)

On the contrary, in a couple decades, things will be much worse in Japan. The number of retirees will rise, and the number of younger working people will decline. The ratio of retired to working people will rise, and there won't be anyone to pay for the medical care of the old people. That's a recipe for immense suffering, both personal and economic.

This is unnecessarily alarmist. In the early 1900s (until about 1940) the Japanese birth rate was approximately 4 times what it is now. Who do you think paid to feed all those kids or for their medical care, etc.? Yeah, conditions were worse, but the point is that all of those resources that previously went from working adults directly into raising kids are no longer necessary.

As long as older people are relatively healthy, it's not like having to care for 2 parents (shared among their children) for 10 years more is going to require more in terms of food, etc. than taking care of 5 or 6 kids for 20 years as they grow up (as was needed in years gone by).

Now I know the big objection about this is going to have to do with health care -- obviously older people cost more in terms of health care, but this is a relatively novel phenomenon, mostly having to do with a general push toward life extension without consideration of quality of life. Older people who are not suffering from chronic medical issues are probably not going to cost society as a whole much more than the multitude of children every family had in years gone by. But, to take an even more "crass" perspective, at some point humans will have to start seriously considering quality of life issues, rather than extending lives in pain for years or decades at great expense. Maybe we're not there yet... but unless someone comes up with the "fountain of youth" elixir in the next couple decades, a LOT of Western societies are going to need to start dealing with this issue.

Japan currently averages about 1.4 kids per family. A stable, sustainable rate would be about 2.1 kids. (Not 2.0 because a small number will die before reaching reproductive age.) Japan's rate is much too low for a healthy society.

Yeah, who gets to decide what's "healthy"? The planet as a whole ecosystem, with us included, would probably be much "healthier" if we spent a few centuries with a declining birthrate on the order of Japan's. I agree with you that the bigger issue is large birth rates in other parts of the world, but -- if you're talking from a strictly environmental perspective -- we probably should be talking about a long-term decrease, not "healthy" stability.

Re:This may be crass but... (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 months ago | (#46973791)

t's not like having to care for 2 parents (shared among their children) for 10 years more

Note that if you have 1.4 kids per family on average, five families will have seven kids, and ten parents to support. It's really easy to support the elderly at ten workers per elderly with a 50% chance that any elderly will live long enough to collect Social Security (or the Japanese equivalent). Which was about what we had when SSA was invented in the '30s.

Well, now it's heading toward a 50% chance that any particular elderly will collect SSA benefits for 20 years or more, and the number or workers doing the support is closer to three than to ten.

And it's going to be getting worse as time goes along. For at least the next 30 years, probably longer (it's unlikely we've reached peak lifespan for humans yet).

Re:This may be crass but... (2)

PrimaryConsult (1546585) | about 2 months ago | (#46973829)

Japan, for cultural reasons, is not even willing to supplement its 1.4 rate via immigration.

I agree with most of your post, but disagree with this one. Japan allows immigration of skilled labor. The difference between them and elsewhere is they *only* allow the skilled laborer, and not the rest of the family (unless, of course, the rest of the family is able to meet the immigration criteria individually). This filters out anyone who could possibly be a burden on their social systems. A side effect of this is that the few who do immigrate tend to assimilate into Japanese culture, but that is also necessary: their society does not have rules or laws spelled out for every little thing. There are things the legal system allows that no Japanese person would ever do, except in special circumstances. Trying to allow for legitimate exceptions in laws is hard, but when things are enforced by cultural norms, it's easier to have no law.

natural balance (1)

duckintheface (710137) | about 2 months ago | (#46972939)

The first question that anyone interested in economics, enviornment... anything really.... should ask is, "What is the optimal populaiton for the country or the planet?" To accomplish anything of value, you at least have to know if the optimal population is higher or lower than the current population.

If our goal is the best life for human beings, the optimal number is clearly less than "standing room only" for population density. Based on resource depletion, current pollution, and the massive extinction event we are currently experiencing for other species, I would think the optimum is considerably less than the current population.

The US standard of living has, on average, not improved since the 1970s and has decreased in the last 5 years. Economic growth is not the goal. Per captta economic growth is the relevant value.

Eventually we have to come into a natural balance so that each child born is replacing a person who has died. The longer we wait to start moving to that balance, the more painful the process will be.

Re:This may be crass but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973031)

No no, we must breed more, so that the magical invisible hand will create more resources!

Re:This may be crass but... (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 2 months ago | (#46973053)

This may sound crass, but this is a problem that'll solve itself in a couple of decades, after which you'll have a much lower population on the island, which given the lack of space (especially in large cities) is probably a good thing.

Ireland has one of the lowest population densities in the world. This did not stop one of the world's worst per capita property bubbles forming and bursting, and now re-inflate itself in the capital.

The principal determiner of housing afford-ability is bank policy, and after that the level of influence landlords have over government policy. I imagine both are high in Japan, and the result has in part contributed to the literal decay of the entire country.

If young people in developed countries cannot afford a place to live and raise children, they will not marry, they will not have children, and the country will slowly die. Property prices and rents will remain propped up on an artificial floor, but in consequence the country will simply die.

Re:This may be crass but... (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 2 months ago | (#46973137)

This may sound crass, but this is a problem that'll solve itself in a couple of decades, after which you'll have a much lower population on the island, which given the lack of space (especially in large cities) is probably a good thing.

Then exactly how in the hell are we going to have enough young people to send off to fight in wars and die?

Re:This may be crass but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973243)

Responsible population growth will at least ensure the population won't die out. In japan that's not really looking to be the case.

I'd hazard a guess that a good part of their problem is that most people are just not wealthy enough to raise a family - so they don't until they're making enough money. But by the time they are... they realize they're a bit too old to start one. I remember reading in Japan peoples salaries are more dependent on how long they've been with a company rather than their actual skills and jobs...

There are places in japan where people pay to live (Well, sleep mostly.) in boxes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

Not crass at all, exactly right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973423)

Human civilization does not need tons of expendable young people for working in fields, factories, and fighting wars for the rulers.

Tasks that can be done by robots will be (and that is where Japan is leading the way). In due course, humans will be able to have new synthetic bodies and the elderly won't be sad, they'll be having a blast.

Math says growth in human population has to end sometime. It can be either the easy way, or the hard way. Transition to a steady state economy (steadystate.org) and stable population is the easy way.

Re:This may be crass but... (1)

Alomex (148003) | about 2 months ago | (#46973555)

This may sound crass, but this is a problem that'll solve itself in a couple of decades,

Erh, if couples are having less than two children on the average, as indeed they are, the problem won't "solve itself in a couple of decades".

This trend will simply carry on for many decades with the population steadily dwindling. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since not long ago Japan had less than 60m people, but the skewed ratio ain't going away.

Good For Them (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972489)

Japan is a crowded, congested city as it is. The one thing they don't need more of is people. It's probably better for them in the long run to shrink.
Meanwhile in the US, we take in all kind of illegal immigrants and refugees, it is turning into a shithole here. Japan has it good compared to us or other overcrowded cesspools like India, China or Bangladesh.

Re:Good For Them (3, Insightful)

fizzer06 (1500649) | about 2 months ago | (#46972519)

Japan is not a city.

Re:Good For Them (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972693)

Suck my big black dick, FAGGOT!!!

Re: Good For Them (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972801)

A man who whishes that a dude sucks his dick is probably gay or gay curious. I guess with "fagot" you mean yourself as no one else said something with homosexual intensions.

I won't suck your dick. I'm a lesbian. Good luck and welcome in Gayland. Enjoy your stay.

Re:Good For Them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972791)

I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh, people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future [for our children].

I personally belief (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972823)

you can suck my balls and choke on my manhood

Re:I personally belief (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973223)

Your mom said you have no balls nor manhood due to birth defect. Happy Mother's Day!

Re:Good For Them (1)

garyebickford (222422) | about 2 months ago | (#46972881)

I think the parent was arguing that it is so dense (at least apparently - all we know here is what we see on the media) that it might as well be. I just looked. The density of Houston is about 1350 per square mile, Japan is about 750 per square mile, more than 1/2 of an actual US city (albeit one with a lot of territory). So the parent isn't completely off base.

Re:Good For Them (1)

careysub (976506) | about 2 months ago | (#46973353)

I think the parent was arguing that it is so dense (at least apparently - all we know here is what we see on the media) that it might as well be. I just looked. The density of Houston is about 1350 per square mile, Japan is about 750 per square mile, more than 1/2 of an actual US city (albeit one with a lot of territory). So the parent isn't completely off base.

Source? According to Wikipedia Houston [wikipedia.org] has a density of 3500 per square mile, almost three times the figure you assert. By the same source Japan [wikipedia.org] has a population density of 860 per square mile, so a 4-1 ratio. This is lower than Taiwan, South Korea, Belgium, the Netherlands, India, Israel, and the (Associated Free State) of Puerto Rico, which - while well populated - are rarely referred to as being "cities".

Half the population of Japan lives in just 4 metropolitan areas, which are quite dense. So the average density outside of these four areas is only half that of the entire nation. One could argue that these 4 areas are Japan, but that is a different discussion.

Re:Good For Them (2)

garyebickford (222422) | about 2 months ago | (#46973669)

Ah, I stand corrected. I did a quick google+wikipedia as well, but mistakenly read housing units as population. There are 1350 housing units per sq. mi. in Houston. (I picked Houston because when I lived there it had the lowest density of any US city.) As you pointed out, the population density is closer to 3500.

In any case, my point was that this was the original parent's perception, as it is for most people in the US.

I'll also note that the density in Bangladesh is about 1150. In most (all?) developed countries most of the people live in 'urbanized areas' - the percentages vary radically according to how that is defined. E.g. 1/2 of US residence live in the top 48 'urbanized areas', and 80% in all of them (which includes towns down to 2500 population.) -http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2012/03/us-urban-population-what-does-urban-really-mean/1589/

I think perceptions like this are largely based on what we see in the media. For my part, I was surprised when I moved from Oregon to Massachusetts to discover that the whole state wasn't basically a suburb of Boston. I presently live six+ miles from the nearest supermarket. That's about as far as you can get in central MA, of course, but considering that MA is about the same size as Harney County in Oregon which has a total population of 7,000 - about the same as the town in MA that I live in - I expected to be living "downtown". I moved from central Oregon, which is a bit denser than Harney - Harney is about one per sq. mi., Deschutes is about 52. and in the part where I lived probably 5-15.

Interesting surprise! I just learned that the population density in the state of MA is about 840. It's about the same as Japan! But in my part it's only 220 and I'm in the most rural part of the town.

What's wrong with that? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972507)

I wish this was the norm.

It has to happen sometime (5, Insightful)

dugancent (2616577) | about 2 months ago | (#46972529)

Economic policies based on an ever growing population are failed policies.

Re:It has to happen sometime (1, Offtopic)

benjfowler (239527) | about 2 months ago | (#46972555)

The pindicks who make our economic policies still haven't gotten the memo.

Re:It has to happen sometime (2)

garyebickford (222422) | about 2 months ago | (#46972901)

Unfortunately nobody has ever come up with an economic model that is stable without growth in both population and economic activity. I expect that Japan's accelerated work on advanced robotics may be an effort to create a new model that replaces those people with robots and allows renewed economic growth with a shrinking but ever wealthier population - at least until SkyNet! :P

Re:It has to happen sometime (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 2 months ago | (#46972989)

That could be the epitaph for the Western welfare state. Europe is heading in the same direction as Japan.

Re:It has to happen sometime (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973275)

Obviously people shouldn't have children until they can afford them. That'll fix population growth!

Re:It has to happen sometime (-1, Troll)

benjfowler (239527) | about 2 months ago | (#46973395)

Overly generous welfare is also a key draw factor for the sort of low-quality Third World immigration that's been an issue in Europe since we had the postwar labour shortages.

This is the solution (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972575)

This is not a problem at all. This is an indicator that Japan is moving even further into the Post-Industrial stage of their country's development. They are effectively controling their population growth, the rest of the world would do well to follow their example.

Re:This is the solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972669)

Agreed. Japan is moving in the right direction. The world as a whole is not: just in my lifetime it has grown from 2.7 billions to 7+ billions. In a single partial human lifetime.

The rest of the world needs to take a lesson from Japan and reduce our numbers to something sustainable that doesn't trash the world we live in, destroy entire ecosystems, cause a 1000-fold increase in the extinction rate, and so forth.

Plus, everything is just a lot more pleasant if it's less crowded.

Re:This is the solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972725)

It's pointless as long as other's nations continue reproducing at crazy rates.

Re:This is the solution (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 months ago | (#46972955)

Not when you're an island nation. There is a distinct advantage to being one, that is that many problems that hit the rest of the world can be largely avoided.

Japan, for example, doesn't have much in terms of cheap labour force problem driving unskilled and semi-skilled labour market into the ground.

Re:This is the solution (-1, Troll)

benjfowler (239527) | about 2 months ago | (#46973417)

Japan doesn't have a problem. They have succeeded in first making the demographic transition, and then are successfully making the transition to a steady-state, sustainable population. They'll overcome their surfeit of old people, the trains will keep running on time, and they'll emerge without their country overrun, and cultures diluted by Third World trash (unlike, say, Europe).

So good for them. They're doing just fine.

The problem here is the stupid pro-"growth" rhetoric, and the fact that the growth-without-limit model peddled by our useless elites is failing.

Big problems ahead (4, Interesting)

hsmith (818216) | about 2 months ago | (#46972603)

The aging population relies on the tax base of the young to sustain any old age benefit program.

What happens when you don't have enough young people to sustain the program the old people depend on?

Will the young revolt? Will the old vote heavier taxes on the young so they can live their lifestyle?

There are massive socioeconomic problems that will not only impact Japan but America and other western countries.

The young will be piggy banks for so long before getting tired of it.

Re:Big problems ahead (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972621)

The young will be piggy banks for so long before getting tired of it.

The old run the show, you pathetic little bitch.

Accept that or be ready to accept the consequences of your pointless futile rebellious ideas.

Re:Big problems ahead (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about 2 months ago | (#46972839)

Italy is, by virtue of its ageing population, a gerontocracy, with the old hogging the levers of power.

Expect cultural stagnation (e.g. conservatism) as a consequence.

Re:Big problems ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972649)

I've been casually thinking about this on and off for a while, and I think the best thing would be government compelled community service for young people to take care of the elderly for a few years. It is not that much different than countries that require everyone to undergo a few years of military service, and it would cut down on the costs of elderly care quite a bit. They might even learn something in the process.

Re:Big problems ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972677)

It is not that much different than countries that require everyone to undergo a few years of military service

Which, by the way, is immoral.

Re:Big problems ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972813)

By the "I didn't agree to it" argument, so it private property. The greatest burden on any individual in the West results from their not just being able to use any of the resources they find around them.

To live in society, you play by society's rules.

Re:Big problems ahead (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 months ago | (#46972731)

Obligatory military service has been abandoned across nearly all developed countries, and besides, isn't one of the motivations for Japan's investment in robotics R&D being able to take care of the elderly even with a considerably smaller labour force?

Re:Big problems ahead (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#46972697)

What happens when you don't have enough young people to sustain the program the old people depend on?

Improve productivity through the use of automation, robotics, and AI, while simultaneously reducing resource consumption through the use of advanced composite materials and intelligent sensors. Progress happens. It is silly to extrapolate demography while assuming everything else will stay the same.

Re:Big problems ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973073)

We've improved productivity for decades. Those gains don't accrue to everyone; they only accrue to the owners of capital. Until and unless that changes, further improvements won't mean a thing.

Re:Big problems ahead (3, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#46973389)

Those gains don't accrue to everyone; they only accrue to the owners of capital.

This is only true if you have tunnel vision. In the developed countries of North America and Europe, most economic gains in the last few decades have gone to the owners of capital. But if you look at the whole world, that is not true at all. The big gains have been at the bottom. Nearly a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. Per capita GDP has gone up eight-fold in China, with 300 million Chinese entering the middle class.

Re:Big problems ahead (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973461)

I live in China. The economy is growing on a building boom. Unfortunately we have already built a lot more than we can use/need. Whole communities are empty. It's going to collapse sooner or later.

Re:Big problems ahead (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 months ago | (#46973505)

That's great for China but does nothing for Japan, the U.S. or Europe.

Re:Big problems ahead (4, Interesting)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 months ago | (#46972711)

The "young" and the "old" aren't political classes, especially since one rather quickly becomes the other. In any case it's the middle aged who pay by far the most taxes and drive the engine of consumerism through property purchases, vehicle purchases, etc, not to mention taxation applied on company profits and the like. The economy is complicated.

However Japan is an interesting case. The rise of the "herbivores", a phenomenon whereby young men are opting out of not just society but long term relationships on a reported scale I frankly have difficulty crediting, is a symptom of a society at war with itself. This isn't a deliberate attempt to control or reduce the population but rather a culture where traditional norms were thrown out en masse before and during world war 2, to be replaced by a fervid desire to excel on the national level right up until the early 90s, and now that's been done Japanese men are finding that an angry boss at work and an angry woman at home isn't what they want out of life.

It's unknown territory, socially, and it remains to be seen if the west will follow suit.

Re:Big problems ahead (2)

stoploss (2842505) | about 2 months ago | (#46972849)

What happens when you don't have enough young people to sustain the program the old people depend on?

Default, at least. A few years ago I decided to investigate why everyone was freaking out over Greece's 100% debt-to-GDP ratio but not the US' same level. I found that Japan has a *200%* debt-to-GDP ratio, yet eswentially everyone is silent about it. How does that work?

Well, government debt is treated like a savings program there. People can buy government debt at their post office, etc. So, all these old people have been saving their money for years and years by buying these savings bonds. This hasn't been a problem for Japan so far because all these people are rolling over the debt as it matures (taking the money from the retired bond and using it to buy a new one).

Much like a Ponzi scheme, this works until people want to cash out... then they find the money isn't there to do that. Who is likely to want to cash out? Well, perhaps elderly people who are retired and now are counting on using the money they saved all their lives.

I know some economists like Krugman disingenuously state that a government in control of its own currency printing presses can never default, but that's a lie. If these people bought the bonds in good faith and the government decides to pay them off with hyperinflated, worthless currency that they printed, then that's theft (at least morally speaking).

Not honoring one's obligations in debt is a default (ethically speaking), whether that's in the form of refusing to pay one's debts, disavowing debts, or paying them with worthless scrip.

Re:Big problems ahead (4, Interesting)

garyebickford (222422) | about 2 months ago | (#46972967)

Well, actually they've been freaking out about the Japanese debt problem for a long time - 20 years or so. Most economists that I've read now believe that it would have been better to 'bite the bullet' back then and let the banks fail, then pick up the pieces. Instead they've been slowly bleeding to death for 20 years and dragging down the Japanese economy. See Iceland vs. UK and several other Euro countries. Iceland told the banks (and Europe) to F*-off - no "too big to fail" BS. The country went through some hard times for a few years, now they're doing well. But other countries all over Europe are now in the bleeding to death for 20 years phase. And, IMHO the US is going that way as well but we're doing it by inflationary theft.

I read recently that Japan's 'safe' Postal Savings system had been exposed - it had been systematically and secretly looted by successive governments for the last 20 years, to cover up the financial problems and prop up the banks. It was originally a true savings system, but no longer. The money's not actually there any more. It's now financially more like the US Social Security system, where they're paying the present oldsters with money paid in by youngsters.

Re:Big problems ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973037)

Default, at least. A few years ago I decided to investigate why everyone was freaking out over Greece's 100% debt-to-GDP ratio but not the US' same level. I found that Japan has a *200%* debt-to-GDP ratio, yet eswentially everyone is silent about it. How does that work?

One is not like the other. Greeks don't *print their own money*.

Is that simple enough for you?

Japan or US will never default on their debt unless the choose to default on it. Greece does not have that option. Greece needs money from 3rd party to be able to pay back debt. You should read up why debt denominated in any currency but your own is extremely risky (see Argentina's USD debt and how it drags them down, for example).

Re:Big problems ahead (1)

stoploss (2842505) | about 2 months ago | (#46973325)

Thanks for the smarmy reply, I guess. I already understand all that, but it wasn't salient to the topic of Japan. If you read my post, you will see that I disagree about countries that print their own currency. It's tantamount to a default if you spool up the presses and pay it off with worthless hyperinflated currency.

FYI, you should read about what typically happens with sovereign debt denominated in another currency. The government may not control the printing presses, but they control the laws and judiciary of the nation. Surprise unilateral contract modification.

The real risk, of course, is if a country issues bonds under a foreign government's laws. Greece "surprise modified" their sovereign debt that was issued under Greek law, but they paid out in full their debt issued under English law.

Is that simple enough for you?

Re:Big problems ahead (3, Informative)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 2 months ago | (#46973629)

If you read my post, you will see that I disagree about countries that print their own currency. It's tantamount to a default if you spool up the presses and pay it off with worthless hyperinflated currency.

It won't be "worthless" or "hyperinflated" if the debt is paid off in that currency.

Hyperinflation is generally a phenomenon which occurs as part of a feedback loop -- country A owes money in country B's currency, for example. Country A runs the presses to pay the debt in currency B this month. To do so, it increases the monetary base of currency A; it then exchanges money for currency B. Those people who buy currency A to give out the B in exchange then spread the currency A money back into the economy, where inflation begins.

Since prices are inflated and the monetary base in use has enlarged, the exchange rate between A and B changes, so A now has less worth in B's denomination. Next month or quarter or whatever, when A has to come up with money in currency B, it now has to print the presses even more, because the exchange rate is no longer as favorable. That results in more money flowing into the economy, more inflation, etc. Each payment thus requires more printing of the presses than the previous month, and the currency is devalued.

Repeat cycle over a period of months or years, and country B never pays off debt, and its currency is completely wrecked by hyperinflation.

Now -- if a country has sovereign debt denominated in its own currency, then the government is the only source of the currency. Thus, the government already effectively "created" that money by issuing the bond in the first place. Some other person or country or whatever holds that debt has already said that it will accept payment in currency "created" by that government.

So, if country A now just decides tomorrow to run the presses and pay off ALL the debt, it can do so. Country A is guaranteed to be able to pay off ALL of its debt simply by an act authorizing payment of X dollars or yen or whatever. There is no possibility of the inflationary spiral above where it could require many multiples of X dollars or yen or whatever simply to pay off the debt, because the denomination already is ONLY X and X ONLY. The value of the debt is set.

It is possible that some inflation will ensue after the debt is paid, depending on exactly how this is done, and what the people who get paid this "money" do with it. (I put "money" in quotation marks, because all of these transactions mostly happen virtually on computers between major banks and such, with no real currency transactions happening in actual physical money.) But, in reality, foreign owners of debt in currency A will probably act in ways to actively discourage inflation in currency A as long as they hold some debt in that currency... otherwise, the value of their investment will decrease. So, anyone who holds this debt has an interest in keeping currency A afloat and avoiding hyperinflation -- rather than if the debt is denominated in currency B, in which case all that matters is getting the value into currency B.

But the point is that there is no need for the inflationary spiral to occur, because the money never has to go through the exchange process (and thereby doesn't necessarily change hands beyond the original holders of the debt).

Now -- how investors in that country's government could react going forward could have serious economic consequences, depending on how it is handled. But the money originally flowing to those who own the debt will be paid in currency with its current full value, not "worthless hyperinflated currency." If you don't understand that currency actually originates through government production, and thus production of government debt effectively "creates" money already, I'd suggest you go back and read a macroeconomics textbook.

One can argue about how crazy governments have to be to cause banks and investors and so forth to start acting in potentially dangerous ways and ruin the economy, but the fact is that sovereign government debt in the country's own currency is already effectively a "creation" act. Paying that debt off doesn't necessarily even cause inflation after it is paid off (though it might) -- it certainly wouldn't cause hyperinflation to occur in the process of paying it off (as it could if denominated in foreign currency).

Re:Big problems ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973121)

I know some economists like Krugman disingenuously state that a government in control of its own currency printing presses can never default, but that's a lie. If these people bought the bonds in good faith and the government decides to pay them off with hyperinflated, worthless currency that they printed, then that's theft (at least morally speaking).

If demand for goods and services is declining as people age out of consumerism and into senescence, and there's no population growth (i.e., no big generation of future consumers), deflation is the larger risk. There's nothing left in such an economy to drive inflation? Printing enough money to make sure that everyone's assets (stocks, real estate, etc.) aren't deflating and promoting a mad rush to liquidation is a perfectly reasonable thing to do in such a situation.

Re:Big problems ahead (2)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about 2 months ago | (#46973303)

I know some economists like Krugman disingenuously state that a government in control of its own currency printing presses can never default, but that's a lie. If these people bought the bonds in good faith and the government decides to pay them off with hyperinflated, worthless currency that they printed, then that's theft (at least morally speaking).

No, it's not theft. It's just the Super Chicken rule: they knew the job was dangerous when they took it.

Bond purchasers know that currencies may be debased, and that governments may even just default; happens all the time. But they gambled that the likelihood of getting a return on their investment was greater than of losing it, and that it was a better option than putting the money elsewhere. But there's no rock solid guarantee that absolutely cannot be broken.

Next you'll say that discharging debts in bankruptcy is immoral or something similarly stupid.

Re:Big problems ahead (1)

stoploss (2842505) | about 2 months ago | (#46973455)

Bond purchasers know that currencies may be debased, and that governments may even just default; happens all the time. But they gambled that the likelihood of getting a return on their investment was greater than of losing it, and that it was a better option than putting the money elsewhere. But there's no rock solid guarantee that absolutely cannot be broken.

I'm sure the American public would love to hear the truth you just expressed. I agree with you that the full faith and credit of the US government is *not* inviolable, but they may not be so happy to hear that their savings bonds and Social Security Trust Fund (cf. the SDR bonds that constitute almost the entire the Trust Fund) are risky investments that are subject to being debased and paid out with worthless scrip.

But, hey, you know: they knew what they were getting into when they decided to play the market. It's their own fault they have money locked up in government debt.

I see you're a lawyer. Here's a shibboleth for you: when two parties agree on terms for exchange of considerations, and then one party unilaterally modifies the agreement to their advantage in order to inflict loss upon the other party, do you call that savvy maneuvering or unethical? This scenario is in a vacuum, BTW, so there's no background to read into it. What's your take on it, prima facie? If we don't agree on basic semantics then there's no point in debating.

PS. Krugman and his ilk constantly say that you can't equate macroeconomics to microeconomics, so I don't know what you were trying to insinuate with your bankruptcy comment.

Re:Big problems ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973083)

taking care of old people is not a problem that you can just throw money at.

It requires a large amount of trained people. Yes those people (doctors and caregivers) need to be funded, and no, it's not work that anyone would want to do. But it will be necessary, unless we want to see more and more old people just dying off from neglect. (and I suspect, this is where the system will break down. We'll run out of hospital beds, and nursing home rooms, and many more old people will die-off simply because nobody checked up on them for 3-6 months at a time when they start having cronic healt problems that progress to terminal. Honestly, this already happens today.

Re:Big problems ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973277)

Hopefully they planned the system with enough input to provide a buffer between generational surges.

Knowing humans. This was not thought of or neglected, or stolen from.

Re:Big problems ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973407)

How about I view the problem from my perspective as a nearly middle-age white male. The barriers for me of having children are, in order of impact:
* Rising costs of living (rent, car, food).
* Lack of job security.
* Cost of educating my children.
* Long working hours preventing me from finding and developing a relationship with my spouse.
* Unresonable expectations from my spouse.
* Approaching the end of my reproductive lifespan where the chances of me having an autistic child are increasing.

I would not be surprised if all the young people over the world are financing the ageing baby boomers' healthcare by not having grandchildren of their own, or at least the ones on the poor end of the socio-economic spectrum. I only worry they're just rooting out the socially responsible ones while the poor irresponsible welfare queens will continue having children regardless.

Re:Big problems ahead (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about 2 months ago | (#46973435)

Easy. You force the old to pay for their retirements by making them buy private pensions. You force them to sell their houses to pay for aged care, and soak them through taxes.

The boomer generation hogs all the wealth and political power; they will be forced to pay for their own mess, because there is no alternative.

Re:Big problems ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973463)

Most likely the young will either revolt or move to another country. What are the old going to do? Swing their cane and walkers?

Deflation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972647)

Deflation (in prices) is a tax on children.

Rev. Malthus would approve.

So that's why (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972709)

They have so much child porn in japan, because there are no real kids

Re: So that's why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972819)

Idiot.

Explanation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46972811)

Japanese men prefer to jerk it to tentacle porn?

Social (-1, Offtopic)

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I can solve this problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973045)

I will devote the remainder of my life to impregnating as many young Japanese women as possible. I can probably manage 2 or 3 per day. So over the course of a year I could create 1,000 or so extra babies for Japan.

It's obvious (0, Troll)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 months ago | (#46973065)

Japan is one of the most feminized countries on the planet. Men there have been feminized to the point of absurdity such that the women there want little to do with them unless they're willing to put in inhuman hours at work to 'support' a family (ie top 10 percent).. Basically these guys are just opting out of the rat race because they've realized the costs to life, health and sanity outweigh what few benefits the women might offer, leaving the women to fight for the dwindling supply of 'alphas' at the top. The west should take note of this trend because while japan has some unique attributes to its culture, we have our own version of it now too. Today's feminism damns men for doing and damns them for not, so more and more of them are realizing it's cheaper, healthier and saner to be damned for nothing than to work at it.

http://www.youtube.com/results... [youtube.com]

Re:It's obvious (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973583)

I like the part where men are "feminized" simply because women have an unparalleled ability to be the masters of their own destinies.

Today's feminism damns men for doing and damns them for not

What's wrong, shithead? Your "alpha" self-stylings can't handle women wearing shoes and being outside the kitchen?

I for one welcome (1)

iamacat (583406) | about 2 months ago | (#46973467)

Our new mother overlords!

I know what the problem is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973533)

Too many otaku living with their parents till ripe old ages and whacking off to loli hentai instead of going out and actually meeting real women.

You real what you sow (2, Interesting)

iONiUM (530420) | about 2 months ago | (#46973613)

I've been to Japan many times, and this problem could have been partially mitigated with immigration. But the Japanese are racist at best, xenophobic at worst. So, this is what they get. I mean you can't even get citizenship if you marry a Japanese, what the fuck is that.

Something that most people don't realise... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46973627)

... is that Japan has a pension scheme for the elderly. Basically, there is an incentive for pension fraud, as the way the system works there, it's hard to tell if someone's deceased for sure due to proper privacy laws; it's really only public when people report it to the responsible department. Families who cares for the elderly or otherwise can collect the payment instead, which doesn't help the situation either.

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2010/0810/In-graying-Japan-scandal-over-missing-100-year-olds

So if you ever read another article about Japan having some kind of elderly-aged crisis, dismiss it, they don't live any longer or have as many elderly as you think you/they do.

Two, One, or None (3, Insightful)

Scot Seese (137975) | about 2 months ago | (#46973633)

- Children. Title solves global population problems. Two children to replace two parents, with the odd accident or illness to either parents or children statistically causing slow population shrink.

Japanese families tend to be fairly careful with money, and as a result - as used to be the case with many WW2 generation elderly Americans - are sitting on piles of assets. What will occur is simply the balloon "inflate / deflate" effect. You work your entire life to amass savings and assets, you become elderly and require medical care or living assistance, and the balloon begins to deflate.

So, good news, unemployed Japanese youth - Head off to city college and pick up that 2 year nursing assistant certification or complete a 4 year degree in anything medically relevant, and their deflating balloon will inflate yours.

(Joke) you can just fast forward about 100 years, when the entire Western world will just be a giant medical service economy with only 3 types of entities: Elderly, people providing medical or living assistance to elderly, and semi sentient robots doing everything else.

As the Dalai Lama once said, paraphrased, "People in their youth spend their health pursuing money only to become elderly and spend their money pursuing health."

Forgot Their Viagra (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 2 months ago | (#46973707)

So elderly Japanese folks are intelligent enough not to make babies. And here my 90 year old grandma was eager to get knocked up again.
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