Japan population seen falling 30 percent by 2060

Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:43pm GMT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's population is expected to fall by 30 percent to below 90 million by 2060, with two out of every five people 65 or older, a government agency said on Monday, underlining the financial burden looming over the fast-ageing society.

The grim forecast underscores the failure of efforts to encourage people to have more babies and will add urgency to efforts on tax and social security reform, and could also stir debate on immigration.

By 2060, the number of people aged 14 or younger is forecast to be less than 8 million while there will be nearly 35 million people aged 65 or older.

The population is aging at the fastest pace among developed countries because of a low birthrate and long life expectancy.

"The trend of the ageing society will continue and it is hard to expect the birth rate to rise significantly," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference.

"Thus, comprehensive tax and social security reform is needed."

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has vowed to double a 5 percent sales tax in two stages by October 2015 to help fund bulging social security costs, which are rising by 1 trillion yen ($13 billion) a year and aggravating a public debt already twice the size of Japan's $5 trillion (3.18 trillion pound) economy.

But the biggest opposition party, although agreeing on the need for a tax increase, is threatening to block legislation in parliament's upper house. The opposition argues that the ruling Democrats' plan to revamp public pensions would require a higher levy than planned.

The population is expected to fall below 100 million in 2048 and dip further to 86.74 million by 2060, from 128.06 million in 2010, according to a projection by a research arm of the Health Ministry.   Continued...

A man walks on a street in Tokyo August 24, 2011. REUTERS/Issei Kato
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