Why immigration probably won't save Japan from demographic decline.2:28 PM, Feb 25, 2015 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
Over at Reason, Pete Suderman has a great piece about how Japan is looking to robots to help care for its geriatric citizens. It’s funny and creepy and you should totally read it.
Japan probably has the worst demographic problem in the world. The country’s fertility rate has been below replacement (way below) for three generations. First, this slowed population growth to a halt; the contraction has now begun and will accelerate in the coming years. Today, Japan has just under 127 million people. If its fertility rate were to stay constant from here until the end of the century, Japan’s population would drop to 59.5 million. (Go and play with the U.N. Population Division numbers; it’s fascinating.)
But the real problem for Japan, as Suderman notes, isn’t total population: It’s the ratio of old people to young people, which is already skewed and will only get top-heavier with each passing year. Have a look at Japan’s population pyramid here and what you see will blow your mind: In 2050, Japan could have close to four times as many women over the age of 75 than girls under the age of 10. And that’s from the rosy-colored scenario where the fertility rate actually rebounds. If it stays constant, matters will be much worse.
So what’s Japan to do? The choices are (1) Make more babies; (2) Allow massive immigration; or (3) Build robots.
For a host of reasons too complicated to get into here (but helpfully expanded on in this fine book about demographics!) the Japanese have chosen Option #3. Which is where Suderman’s piece comes in, suggesting that this may be a larger technological hurdle than many futurists have assumed.
Instead, Suderman closes by hinting that what Japan really ought to do is consider Option #2:
For years, Japan has been notoriously resistant to immigration. Of its current population, less than two percent are from outside the country, and the nation has traditionally only allowed about 50,000 immigrant visas each year—far less than the 700,000 estimated to be necessary to keep population levels afloat.
In early 2014, reports suggested that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might allow for expanded immigration, perhaps as many as 200,000 newcomers each year. But by summer, he had backed off the idea. “In countries that have accepted immigration,” he declared on a Japanese TV show, according to The Financial Times, “there has been a lot of friction, a lot of unhappiness both for the newcomers and the people who already lived there.”
Robot workers might provide some assistance for the country’s aging population, but they won’t do much to solve the nation’s underlying fiscal problems: They don’t pay taxes, start businesses, or contribute directly to a growing economy. At best, they’ll make it easier for Japan to grow old. But unlike immigrants, they won’t make the country young again.
Suderman isn’t wrong—by many utilitarian measures, immigrants probably would be preferable to robots. But if you look at the question from Japan’s perspective, you can understand why the Japanese would find this pathway problematic.
For starters, look at the scale. In order for immigration to work as a demographic band-aid, Japan would need to move from 50,000 immigrants admitted annually to 700,000—that’s an increase of 1,400 percent, virtually overnight. Japan is 98.5 percent Japanese right now. That percentage would plummet over the course of just a few years.
There’s no real way to illustrate how large the consequences of this change might be. So let’s try a couple analogies:
3:38 PM, Jan 24, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama confirmed and condemned the death of a Japanese man at the hands of the Islamic State in this statement:
7:32 AM, Jan 5, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe will "express remorse" for World War II, the Associated Press reports.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that his government would express remorse for World War II on the 70th anniversary of its end in August.
The diplomatic courtship of South Korea’s president.Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
America’s “pivot” to Asia is rapidly going nowhere, but diplomatic challenges in the most economically vibrant region of the world still cry out for attention. These include the brash assertiveness of a rising China, the emergence of an erratic, nuclear-armed young North Korean leader, and the embrace of neo-nationalism in an aging and insecure Japan. One nation stands out as a source of balance—South Korea, personified by its astute and pragmatic president, the first woman to hold the job.
Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
A foolish optimism about human nature can’t withstand even a nodding acquaintance with history. If you’re of a certain age you may well remember seeing this photo. It was published years ago in Life magazine, among other places. And once seen, it is not easily forgotten. The Scrapbook retrieved the copy reproduced here from the endlessly fascinating World War II Today website, maintained and curated since 2008 by Martin Cherrett (ww2today.com). Here is Mr. Cherrett’s description:
5:14 PM, Jul 1, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In 2007, during his first term as Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe penned a work titled Toward a Beautiful Country, My Vision for Japan. The recent re-examination of the 1993 Kono Statement on the Imperial Japanese military’s use of “comfort women” during World War II (a euphemism for sex slaves), which was presented to the Japanese Diet on June 20, is the antithesis of the actions of “a beautiful country.” It represents a backward step, reopening a dark chapter in 20th-century history, which most of the world woul
Tiananmen Square and truth-telling. Jun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In a March 28 speech at the Körber Foundation in Berlin, China’s president, Xi Jinping, called for historical truth-telling. He had in mind the Rape of Nanking, the massacre carried out by Imperial Japan’s forces in 1937-38 during their occupation of the then-capital of the Chinese Nationalists (the city is now called Nanjing).
11:51 AM, Apr 28, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
President Obama spent only one night in Japan last week on his current swing through Asia, but the State Department estimated total "lodging nights" required by the president and his entourage could run around 2,172, and the use of "functional rooms" (presumably conference rooms and the like) could last up to 29 days.
8:09 AM, Apr 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama met some Japanese robots and didn't like it. "I have to say that the robots were a little scary, they were too lifelike.
9:20 PM, Apr 23, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama is in Japan meeting with the emperor -- and talking about his gray hair.
"I hope you and your family are well," Obama told the emperor, according to the pool report. "I have very fond memories of our last meeting four years ago."
The emperor responded, "We are pleased to welcome you."
According to the White House pool report, "The president told the Emperor that the last time they met, he did not have any gray hairs."
To which the emperor reportedly responded, "You have a very hard job."
Here's the entire pool report:
Is South Korea slipping away?Mar 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 24 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In 1916 London faced a dilemma. The British were hoping to bring American reinforcements to assist them and their beleaguered French allies in the trenches of the First World War. Woodrow Wilson, however, seeking to become the first Democratic president to win reelection since before the Civil War, was campaigning under the slogan “He kept us out of war.”
America’s Pacific ally displays confidence – and makes a needless slip.11:33 AM, Jan 21, 2014 • By JOSEPH A. BOSCO
Much good news is emanating from Japan, one of America's most important allies, though some of it comes with an unnecessary taint. After decades of economic stagnation and foreign policy reticence stemming from its postwar legacy of pacifism, Japan is back as a strong and confident alliance partner.