エコノミスト紙の記事(保存用)"A special report on Japan"

FOR a glimpse of Japan’s future, a good place to visit is Yubari, a former mining town on the northern island of Hokkaido, which four years ago went spectacularly bust with debts of \36 billion ($315m). It is a quiet spot, nestled in a valley at the end of a railway line. When the coal mines were working 40 years ago, 120,000 people lived there. But the mines have long since closed, and now there are only 11,000 people left, almost half of them over 65.

The town hall is like a morgue, with few lights on. In the past four years the number of civil servants has been cut in half, their salaries have shrunk by a third and they now have to mop their own floors, they complain. The town has embarked on an 18-year austerity drive to repay its debts. The public library has already closed down. This autumn six primary schools merged into one.

Even so the townspeople look anything but defeated. A group of 80-year-olds chatting in one café is the backbone of the local photography club. Delighted to have an audience, they show off black-and-white pictures taken in the 1950s, with children swirling around the school playground on ice skates.

Like Yubari, Japan is heading into a demographic vortex. It is the fastest-ageing society on Earth and the first big country in history to have started shrinking rapidly from natural causes. Its median age (44) and life expectancy (83) are among the highest and its birth rate (1.4 per woman) is among the lowest anywhere. In the next 40 years its population, currently 127m, is expected to fall by 38m. By 2050 four out of ten Japanese will be over 65.

Like Yubari, Japan is also deeply in debt. But whereas Yubari’s fiscal problems arose from a huge public-spending splurge aimed at wooing back its young people (at one point it had an international film festival and 17 cinemas), Japan at the start of its journey into the demographic unknown already has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world.

Japan is already full of Yubaris. Between 2000 and 2005 the number of people living in small towns and villages across Japan fell by 10m. Only shimmering cities like Tokyo continue to swell, but even they will start to look old within a few decades.

What matters most for Japan’s economic growth prospects is the decline in its working-age population, those aged 15-64, which has been shrinking since 1996. For about 50 years after the second world war the combination of a fast-growing labour force and the rising productivity of its famously industrious workers created a growth miracle. Within two generations the number of people of working age increased by 37m and Japan went from ruins to the world’s second-largest economy.

In the next 40 years that process will go into reverse (see chart 1). The working-age population will shrink so quickly that by 2050 it will be smaller than it was in 1950. Unless Japan’s productivity rises faster than its workforce declines, which seems unlikely, its economy will shrink. This year it was overtaken by China in size.

The impact will become even clearer in 2012 when the first members of the 1947-49 baby-boom generation hit 65. From then on, some believe, demography will seriously aggravate Japan’s other D-words―debt, deficits and deflation. Unless the retirement age rises in lockstep with life expectancy, ageing will automatically push up pension costs, further straining public finances. Shigesato Takahashi, a senior government demographer, says it will “rock the foundations” of Japan’s social-security system. It may also entrench deflation. A shortage of workers might push up wage costs, but companies will be loth to invest in new factories.

This will make Japan a test case of how big countries across the world should handle ageing and population decline. Western Europe’s working-age population is already shrinking, though not as fast as Japan’s. East Asia, too, will watch Japan intently. Its industrial-growth model has closely resembled Japan’s in its post-war boom, rising on the same tide of an expanding workforce and export-led productivity gains. Japan has been called the lead goose in that V-formation. For now, as Florian Coulmas, a population expert at Tokyo’s German Institute for Japanese Studies, puts it, Japan is “the oldest goose”. But South Korea’s and China’s working-age populations too will soon start to shrink.

One of the unfortunate side-effects of ageing in Japan is that it will be the young who suffer the most. Although unemployment levels may remain among the lowest in the rich world, many of the jobs will be lowly ones. The children of the baby-boomers are currently entering their 40s, which creates a secondary bulge at the middle-manager level of Japanese business. Because of a seniority-based pay system, this puts a huge strain on business costs, leaving less money to provide young people with training and good jobs.

It is sometimes said that Japan’s risk appetite mirrors that of its baby-boomers. In the prime of their working lives they wanted to conquer the world with their products. Now, in their 60s, they want a quieter life. The same seems to go for the country as a whole.

Yet to support them in their retirement, and provide the generations that follow them with the economic opportunities they need, Japan cannot afford to drift. When there is no ambulance to answer a pensioner’s anguished telephone call, as sometimes happens in Yubari, the consequences become all too clear. When couples find they cannot afford to care for a bedbound parent, let alone a young child, demography becomes a social disaster.

This special report will argue that Japan must tackle this issue head on. It needs a grand plan for an ageing population. “From a business standpoint, right now the threat [of ageing] overwhelms the opportunity,” says Yoshiaki Fujimori, head of GE in Japan. “Most people are aware of it, but they don’t know how to cope with it.” Boosting productivity to counter the effects of a shrinking workforce will require a cultural revolution, especially in business. Embracing the markets opening up in Asia will mean overcoming 150 years of mistrust of Asia (heartily reciprocated).

There are two reasons for guarded optimism, though. One is that, unlike a lot of rich countries, Japan has not forsaken its industrial heritage. It has a cohesive workforce and it can still come up with innovative products.

The other reason for hope is political. Japan made a huge bid for fresh thinking last year when it ended the one-party rule that had, in effect, been in place since 1955. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) that won the 2009 election, now led by Naoto Kan, has bungled much of its first year in office, but its victory alone was a clear indication of voters’ growing impatience with politics as usual. Now the party will need to show that it can deliver.














08憲章 インフルエンザの感染者数 ワクチン製造中止 硫黄 ジャルエクスプレス 自民党と共産党の連立 ゲーム理論 すき家 投資の歩留まり 丸井今井 プリウスの原価 失業率は遅行指標 郵便法違反事件 コーチャンフォー アスピレーシン・コンシュウーマー 女性の雇用問題 年上女房 2010(平成22)年度の雇用保険料率 ジェットストリーム ハイブリッドカー テレビは見てはいけない 丸井今井再建 北海道の百貨店を取り巻く環境 サイバー攻撃 ワークシェアリング ユニクロ トヨタ 平成22年度税制改正要望 三菱鉛筆 デンソー 勝間和代 日本民間放送連盟 新エネルギー・産業技術総合開発機構 自治体クラウド 丸井さんを助けよう アメリカ合衆国法典18編213章3281条憲法第84条 ボリューム・ゾーン 逆進性アプローチ サムライジャパン グリーン・ニューディール メディア統制 過去問 直リンク 中小企業の資金繰り支援 西武百貨店 調整型紛争解決 自治体のWTO違反懸念 2009年の衆議院総選挙で当選した女性の数 正社員の副業 ものづくりの本質 セグウェイ 左利き 厚生労働省 父の日プレゼント 放送倫理検証委員会 リコール ワイルドスピード 中国の人口問題 日本年金機構 エイジフリー 久米宏 租税法ゼミ スーパー公務員 石綿肺 障害者団体向け割引制度 爆笑問題 犯罪の公訴時効撤廃・延長のための刑事訴訟法改正案 金融強化法 ドイツ政府補助 トウキビ 有機農法 金融商品取引法 全国百貨店売上高 一括採用システム トヨタの時価総額 野田聖子  銀行員 派遣切り 母親になる環境 太陽電池の投資競争 日本はガラパゴス化している 「カエル!ジャパン」キャンペーン 外国人 第104回医師国家試験 公務員の効率向上の特効薬 クラウドコンピューティングを自治体が導入 八月革命説 北洋銀行 個人情報保護条例 派遣村 クボタショック 反知性 GDP比2%の財政出動 派遣労働者をとりまく法的関係 子飼弾 合格発表 新型と季節性 法科大学院別合格者数 道内百貨店 新司法試験 アニメの殿堂 租税法 ロースクール プレップ憲法 プロ市民 公共政策大学院 たばこ税 不妊治療 三越伊勢丹HD グリーン電力証書 労働審判 クレジット・デフォルト・スワップ 憲法記念日 マイカーの外部不経済 グーグル 一人勝ち 整理解雇の4要件 奨励金 びまん性胸膜肥厚 PUMA プロ意識 貸し渋り 丸井さんの強み 2事業とは 超過死亡概念 バラエティーが嫌われる5つの瞬間 OECD 始期付き解約権留保付き労働契約 クラウド・コンピューティング 排出枠 法学部の試験に最適のペン 岩隈 マイカーは依存性の高い嗜好品 青少年に推奨できる番組は週3時間程度 高島屋 中国 ファーストリテイリング 伊勢丹 東京都排出量取引制度 民主党のマニフェスト AFLO 丸井さん 外貨獲得手段 Google.cn Dropbox エコ価値 ブリヂストン 国と企業との「共同不法行為責任」 公務員のリストラ 鶴雅 GM 終戦の日 italicycle 民事再生法 法化社会 ボールサイン80 硫黄固化体 社会保険庁 三面等価の原則 三越 インフルエンザ 残価設定プラン 中国が世界で一番車が売れる市場 NEDO 北海道銀行 雇用者数の減少 ワークライフバランス 労働契約法 ページビュー 泉佐野市企業誘致条例施行規則 内定取消の相場 三菱車購入補助 囚人のジレンマと談合 超油性ボールペン サクラクレパス マイカー保有の生涯コスト 光復節 京都議定書 雇用保険料率の推移 中国からの撤退 雇用保険料率及び国庫負担の推移 メディアリテラシー 男子100mの世界記録の変遷 公訴時効 日本国憲法第39条 超過死亡 太陽光発電