Japan experiences a significant population decline, and foreign residents reach record numbers.

Japan experiences a significant population decline, and foreign residents reach record numbers.

In an unprecedented occurrence, Japan witnessed a decline in its population across all 47 prefectures, marking a record drop. However, during the same period, the number of foreign residents in the country reached an all-time high, nearing the three million mark. These revelations were based on government data released on Wednesday, underscoring the growing significance of non-Japanese individuals in a nation grappling with the challenges of a shrinking and ageing population.

The data indicated that the population of Japanese nationals decreased by approximately 800,000 people, representing a 0.65% decline, bringing the total to 122.4 million in 2022. This marked the 14th consecutive year of population decline, as reported by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, relying on residency registrations as of January 1 of that year. Consequently, Japan’s overall population dropped by slightly over half a million individuals compared to the previous year, settling at 125.41 million.

Conversely, the number of foreign residents witnessed a substantial 10.7% surge, based on addresses registered in Japan. This increase represented the most significant year-on-year rise since the Ministry began recording statistics in 2013. Currently, foreign residents account for about 2.4% of Japan’s total population.

Japan has experienced a steady population decline since reaching its peak in 2008, primarily due to a diminishing birth rate. Last year, the country recorded a historic low of 771,801 births, contributing to the demographic challenge.

In response to the alarming trend of low birth rates, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has made addressing this issue one of his top policy priorities. He has committed to securing substantial annual funding of approximately 3.5 trillion yen ($25.2 billion) over the next three years for a comprehensive child care package. This package includes provisions for childbirth and child-rearing allowances, as well as increased subsidies for higher education.

Despite these proposed measures, experts argue that they primarily entail additional funding for existing programmes and do not adequately address the underlying problems causing the population decline. They emphasise that Japan’s conservative government needs to take more comprehensive actions, such as raising salaries, improving working conditions, and fostering a more inclusive society for minorities and individuals with non-Japanese backgrounds. These steps are crucial to attracting foreign workers to Japan and encouraging them to remain in the country amid the demographic challenges it faces.


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