Entering the post-demographic transition phase in Japan: its concept, indicators and implications

Ryuzaburo Sato, National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan
Ryuichi Kaneko, National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan

In the early twenty-first century, the total population of Japan began to decline, after reaching its peak of 128 million. The total fertility rate has been below the replacement level since the middle of the 1970s and female life expectancy at birth exceeded 80 years old around the middle of the 1980s. It is obvious that this country has shifted to a new population regime, and here we introduce the new concept that Japan has entered a “post-demographic transition phase.” For a country which has already experienced modernization and industrialization, this is the third phase of the total history of its population, following the “pre-demographic transition phase” and the “demographic transition phase.” First, in this paper, we give a definition of the “post-demographic transition phase,” rethinking classical theories of demographic transition, which anticipated fertility settling down at the replacement level and the total population returning to a stationary level after the transition completed. Second, we present demographic indicators which show when and how Japan entered this new era. From examining the changes in population growth rates, fertility patterns and mortality patterns, we conclude that the shift from the “demographic transition phase” to the “post-demographic transition phase” in Japan occurred between the middle of the 1970s and the late 2000s. Third, we illustrate that this shift in the demographic regime is closely associated with the socioeconomic, cultural and even political changes prominent in recent Japanese history. We are now faced with many difficult problems such as a rise in unemployment and a marriage squeeze among young people, an increase in poor single households particularly among elderly persons, and economic downturns and fears of a financial crisis at the national level. The study of demographic transition of Japan is important because Japan is leading other Asian countries in experiencing such drastic changes.

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Presented in Poster Session 3