Big bucks for The Children of Men.

In the aftermath of the recent general election, the perennial ruling party of Japan has promised stimulus payments of 100,000 yen ($881) for every person 18 and under.

This is great news for me because I have two kids and an eye on a PS5. But some people such as the following Twitter user, read between the lines of the announcement and made a dark realization.

▼ “Wait a minute?! Are there really so few children in Japan? That’s insane!”

The first image in the tweet is a Yomiuri Shimbun news article pointing out that about 20 million people between the ages of 0 and 18 will receive benefits. The second image is a Yahoo! search revealing that the population of Japan as of 2021 is 125.12 million.

Crunching the numbers, that would mean the youth population of Japan has shriveled to only 16 percent.

For the sake of comparison with other developed countries, about 22 percent of the US population is under 18 and about 24 percent of people in France is 19 and under. Even China which enacted a “one-child policy” from 1980 to 2015 boasts an under-15 population of nearly 18 percent.

Japan’s declining population certainly isn’t new, and experts have been discussing the reasons behind it and ways to adapt to it for years now. Still, it always feels like an abstract problem because any time you go out onto the street in urban areas it still seems like there’s lots of kids and teenagers everywhere.

▼ There’s one now! Get her!

This announcement, albeit inadvertently, really helps to put the current situation into perspective.

Another Twitter user cited some government data that shows the Japanese population climaxed at about 127 million in 2013, but also projects that by 2048 it will have dropped to below 100 million. Going further, it is believed by 2110 the entire population of Japan will have shrunk to about 43 million, which is only slightly higher than the current population of the Greater Tokyo Area.

The stark realization of all this prompted comments online such as the following:

“They should probably hand out money to the generation that can make babies and try to fix this problem.”
“The government should do more to encourage childbirth like supporting fertility treatments.”
“In about 10 years there will probably be half the number of young people.”
“I wonder if we can export our elderly.”
“No country can beat a declining birthrate.”
“The government should award each couple with more than three children a PS5.”
“It’s time to revisit the idea of universal basic income and throw in some incentives for raising children.”

On the other hand, considering Japan is the 11th most densely populated major country in the world, it could probably stand to have some space freed up. It would ultimately be beneficial to the environment too in terms of energy and resource consumption, and achieving such a level naturally rather that through war, famine, or disease is even better.

Still, it’s sure to be a rocky transition and a major overhaul of Japanese society and its economy will need to adjust. But if that involves robot avatars for everyone, then the future might just be brighter than we think.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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