Unprecedented Demographic Shift: Over 10% of Japan's Population Now Aged 80 or Above


Tokyo, September 19, 2023 — In a historic demographic milestone, Japan has witnessed a notable surge in its elderly population, with more than one in 10 individuals now aged 80 or older, according to recent national data. This marks a significant turning point in the country's demographic landscape.

Moreover, the data reveals that a staggering 29.1% of Japan's total population, which stands at 125 million, is aged 65 or older—a record high. This places Japan at the forefront of nations grappling with the challenge of an aging populace. 

The Land of the Rising Sun has long grappled with the implications of its low birth rates, a predicament that has placed strain on the nation's capacity to support its growing elderly demographic. The United Nations has officially recognized Japan as possessing the world's highest proportion of individuals aged 65 or above.

Comparatively, Italy and Finland trail behind with proportions of 24.5% and 23.6% respectively, claiming the second and third spots in global rankings of aging populations.

Projections from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research paint a stark picture for Japan's future demographic composition. By the year 2040, it is anticipated that those aged over 65 will constitute a staggering 34.8% of the overall population.

In response to this demographic challenge, Japan has managed to sustain one of the highest elderly employment rates among major economies. Individuals aged 65 and older now comprise more than 13% of the national workforce. However, this concerted effort has failed to alleviate the mounting pressure on the country's social security expenditure.

Reflecting the gravity of the situation, Japan has approved an unprecedented budget for the upcoming fiscal year, a considerable portion of which is attributed to the escalating costs of social security. 

Despite efforts to boost birth rates, Japan continues to grapple with the enduring obstacles of a high cost of living and notoriously long working hours. The nation's birth rate is decelerating in alignment with global trends, yet the issue is particularly acute within Japan's borders. Last year, the country saw a historic low of fewer than 800,000 births—a stark contrast to the 1970s when annual births exceeded two million.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, recognizing the severity of the situation, warned in January that Japan is approaching a critical juncture where its societal functionality may be compromised due to declining birth rates. Yet, there remains a reluctance among authorities to embrace migrant workers as a potential remedy for the plummeting fertility rates.

Japan is not alone in its demographic struggle. In neighboring Asia, China's population experienced its first decline since 1961, while South Korea reported the world's lowest fertility rate. These shared challenges underscore the pressing need for innovative solutions to address the complex issue of aging populations across the region.