One of the world's most advanced nations, economically and technologically, is Japan. Yet, economic growth has been stagnant for the past several years, and the long-term view is clouded by a question of demographics. Japan is a densely populated nation; it averages 332 people per square kilometer, as compared to 105 in France and 28 in the United States. (Cutter, Renwick 1999) The problem here however is not overpopulation; it is the decline in Japan's birthrate. .
Japan is moving rapidly down the road towards a society with fewer children and an aging population, with a speed unprecedented anywhere else in the world. Japan's total birthrate is declining year by year, while its average life expectancy is increasing. .
According to the national census, Japan's population stood at 125.6 million as of October 1, 1999. (Flakus 2000) In terms of population, Japan now ranks seventh in the world following in order China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil and Russia. As in other industrial countries, Japan's population growth has slowed in recent years despite a steady decrease in the death rate. The government fears fewer babies - births are down to an all-time low of 1.39 per woman. This will mean a less prosperous, more troubled and lonelier Japan. The trend will increasingly squeeze funds needed to provide for the rapidly increasing numbers of elderly among the approximate 130 million Japanese. (Coleman 2001) The Health and Welfare Ministry announced in June that the current birthrate is far below what is needed to keep population steady. Within a decade, the total population will begin to fall. (Kakuchi 2001).
The main reason for low fertility rates, as in most other countries with population problems, is the idea of wealth. Women in Japan are now becoming more independent; the traditional roles of housewives and mother are no longer being instilled in them from an early childhood.