It's 'now or never' to reverse Japan's population crisis, prime minister says

Japan’s prime minister issued a dire warning about the country’s population crisis on Monday, saying it was “on the brink of not being able to maintain social functions” due to

the falling birth rate. In a policy address to lawmakers, Fumio Kishida said it was a case of solving the issue “now or never,” and that it “simply cannot wait any

longer.” “In thinking of the sustainability and inclusiveness of our nation’s economy and society, we place child-rearing support as our most important policy,” the prime

minister said. Kishida added that he wants the government to double its spending on child-related programs, and that a new government agency would be set up in April to

focus on the issue. Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, with the Ministry of Health predicting it will record fewer than 800,000 births in 2022 for the

first time since records began in 1899. The country also has one of the highest life expectancies in the world; in 2020, nearly one in 1,500 people in Japan were age 100 or

older, according to government data. Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers a policy speech in Tokyo on January 23, 2023. - Kazuki Oishi/Pasya/SIPAPRE/Sipa

USA/AP These trends have driven a growing demographic crisis, with a rapidly aging society, a shrinking workforce and not enough young people to fill the gaps in the

stagnating economy. Experts point to several factors behind the low birth rate. The country’s high cost of living, limited space and lack of child care support in cities

make it difficult to raise children, meaning fewer couples are having kids. Urban couples are also often far from extended family who could help provide support.