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Population, Environmental and Economic Issues in Japan


Japan is a small island country in East Asia. It is at the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.  As Japan is located along the Pacific Rim of Fire, natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami are common. Hence, further environmental problems are brought. Additionally, according to Jozuka (2018), it is indicated that ‘Japan is a “super-aged” nation, meaning more than 20% of its population is older than 65’. Some serious results like low birth rate and labour shortage may occur. Finally, all the issues mentioned above are likely to impact Japan’s economy, which was badly affected by the bubble economy around 1980s. However, this essay will argue that Japan’s society is unlikely to experience demographic, environmental and economic collapse, even though there are several problems with Japan.

Para 1: (Population)

Firstly, aging problem and the low birth rate issue in Japan are two significant factors which affected the economic system, however, the government has made a series of solutions to solve this problem, so it seems like Japan will not collapse because of the population issues. It is forecast that Japan’s population will shrink to one third of 127 million in 50 years, so it’s important for Japan to maintain the population over 100 million, which is also the goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Reynolds, 2017). On the one hand, the aging problem is the obstacle of economic growth in Japan. According to Nikkei staff writers (2018), the percentage of people who are 65 and older increased to 35.57 million, which is the highest record accounts for 28.1% of the population in the history, as well as the biggest number of 12.4% of the workforce. So it will lead to a serious care burden problem for the working age population, and the increasing number of lack of workforce. There is a policy of social welfare in Japan, which is aims to curb the overmuch work time and support more care facilities for kids and aged (Reynolds, 2017). Furthermore, Nikkei Asian Review (2018) states that the public pension benefits improve with an older work age, so it means if you delay getting the pension, you will receive a larger payout. As for the solutions of labor shortage, government not only decides to expand the employment opportunities for the older and immigrants, but also delay the work age from 65 to 70 (Nikkei Asian Review, 2018). Besides, they also argues that the flexible work hours like part-time job and the various category of work is also regard as the effective way to attract more foreigners as a part of labour force. On the other hand, the low birth rate is considered as the result of high costs of having children in Japan, it embodied in the insufficient system of support married women who work and raise children in the same time (Kato, 2018). Therefore, the prevention of government could develop the birth rate by decreasing this cost. Specifically, Kato (2018) argues that support a better work environment for women and offer the day care services for children will become to the key methods of promote the fertility rate. Moreover, president Abe said that he is planning to provide the free education for children in Japan, which will use the bunds of consumption tax in october of 2019 to replace (Nikkei Asian Review, 2018).

Para 2: (Environment)

Environmental issues also effects Japan, especially waste and dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster. Firstly, waste is an important environment issue. Major contamination comes from factory and car emissions, Dioxin, high-tech waste, pollution caused by natural disaster and other kind of pollution. “Due to the small size of the tiny island nation of Japan, there is a lack of space that can accommodate this trash production” (Smith 2015). Secondly, the nuclear plant disaster is also a significant environmental problem. According to Boytchev(2012), “the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown and ensuing leakage of radioactive materials was a disaster on the scale of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.” The radioactive materials are harmful to land and water. In has been proved that radioactive materials contain Cs-137, which will cause the contamination of land. Also, Cs-137 will be deposited to the ocean, and the marine products will contain the radioactive substances. All of the above are very damaging to the ecosystem.

However, several new policies in Japan is enabling the country to address environmental issues, reversing some of the damage that has been caused in order to secure a more sustainable future. To be specific, there are Home Appliance Recycling Law, Containers and Packaging Recycling Law and ELV(end of life vehicles) Law. For example, the plastic producers are responsible for recycling or disposal. Since government has risen the price of other products, and the producers want to cut off these excess cost (Lane 2014). Furthermore, the nuclear disaster has been eased. According to several researches, “the testing crops planted at Fukushima were harvested on 16 May, and contained low levels of radiation — around 9 becquerels per kilogram (Bq kg–1; wet weight), much lower than the 500 Bq kg–1 safety limit for human consumption”(Cyranoski 2011). That can means that Japanese soil are still safe for planting crops after the nuclear disaster. Not only about the soil, but also the air is safe. “In May 2012, Dongdian reported that at least 900 PBq was released into the atmosphere in March 2011”(Boytchev 2012). The radioactive substance will become less and less by following the trend of these current research, therefore Japanese people are lived within a safety limits. Overall, environmental issues are not likely to make Japan collapsed.

Para 3: (Economic)

Another critical issue affecting Japan’s society is poor monetary policy, which results in the bubble economy, known as the “lost decade”(Kuepper 2019). To begin with, throughout the 1980s, the valuations soaring was sent by the real estate speculation and active stock market. The prices of property and public company had increased even more than three times. After realizing the unsustainability of this, “Japan’s Finance Ministry raised interest rates to try and stem the speculation”(Kuepper 2019). However, this led to a debt crisis and serious stock market crash. Moreover, after the first economic shock, Japan’s economic expansion has stopped for more than 10 years. Low economic expansion and deflation occurred as well, “while its stock markets hovered near record lows and its property market never fully returned to its pre-boom levels”(Kuepper 2019). From the crisis, many Japanese people choose to save more money and spend less, which had a further negative impact on the operation of the market. “This contributed to deflationary pressures that encouraged consumers to further hoard money, which resulted in a deflationary spiral”(Kuepper 2019). Nevertheless, through the quick response of the government, bubble economy has been controlled and Japan’s economy is starting to grow slowly. Jackson(2018) states that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics program has coincided with a global upswing that’s helped the country beak out of a decade-long deflationary malaise, fueled corporate profits and supported the stock market”, and it also helped “the economy expand at an average annual pace of 1.3 percent in real terms over the first five years of Abenomics”(Jackson 2018).

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Furthermore, the money spent on population problems and natural disasters also negatively impacts Japan’s economy. There are some economists who blame the monetary policy on the country’s low birth rate. In 2017, the government “announced a 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) spending package to expand free preschool for children aged 3 to 5…from low-income families”(Jozuka 2018). This policy aimed to prevent the further dropping of the population, but it is likely to affect the economic growth. In addition, as Japan is a nation of earthquakes, the money spent on the post-disaster recovery is also enormous. The Great East Japan Earthquake, Tohoku quake “was certainly the costliest natural disaster in world history, as the World Bank’s estimated total economic cost for the disaster was at US$235 billion”(Ghimire 2013). Japan’s financial allocation on the rebuilt of people’s houses and the infrastructure is huge. Hence, Japan’s economic growth might be affected. To conclude, although Japan’s society are affected by these serious economic problems, none of the articles above states that these issues may lead to the collapse of its society. Japan’s financial statement in recent years is beginning to look positive. Japan might not be that wealthy as it used to be, but it may be too extreme to say that Japan is going to collapse. Therefore, it could be said that Japan’s society is unlikely to experience economic collapse.

Reference list:

  1. https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Japan-crosses-new-aging-milestone-with-20-now-70-or-older
  2. https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/japan-s-shrinking-population
  3. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/09/05/commentary/japan-commentary/need-sense-crisis-depopulation/#.XGgD3S1L1QI


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