Japan's population logs record drop

Government estimates show Japan's population has logged a record drop, shrinking in 2012 for the sixth year in a row, due to low birthrate and a high proportion of elderly people.

Number of people falls by 210,000, the largest amount ever recorded

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were joined by well-wishers on Wednesday as the New Year got into full swing in Japan, after a year that saw a record population drop, according to newly released 2012 figures from the Health and Welfare Ministry. (Itsuo Inouye/Associated Press)

Japan's population has logged a record drop, shrinking in 2012 for the sixth year in a row, statistics show.

Estimates from Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry show the total population declined by 210,000 in 2012 — the largest annual decline since records became available — to 128 million people,  the CBC's Craig Dale reported from Tokyo.

Just 1.03 million people were born in Japan last year — the lowest number since the end of the Second World War. Meanwhile, more than 1.24 million people died in 2012, the second-highest number in the post-war era, Dale reported. 

As well, about 8,000 more people died in 2011 when the earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan. 

Government estimates suggest Japan's population will shrink by 30 per cent by 2060, because of a low birthrate and a high proportion of elderly people, to just 86.74 million.

The birthrate has fallen dramatically over the years. In 1950, the average Japanese woman had more than four children during her lifetime. By 2012, that figure stood at 1.39 (the same as in 2011).

Seniors to reach 40% of population by 2060

By 2060, the number of people 65 or older will nearly double to 40 per cent, while the national workforce of people between ages 15 and 65 will shrink to about half of the total population, according to a January 2012 estimate, made by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

It's a demographic shift that Japan's Emperor Akihito has said is a source of worry.

"One of the social issues of concern is the rapidly aging population," he said in a statement on his 79th birthday last month. "I believe that the problem is particularly serious in rural areas far away from the cities."

It's also a demographic shift faced by many countries, including Canada.

Data from the 2011 census shows the number of people over 65 has surged to nearly five million over the previous five years, a rise of 14.1 per cent. The median age in Canada is now 40.6, the oldest ever, compared to 39.5 five years ago and 33.5 two decades ago. Seniors make up 14.8 per cent of the population, a record high.

Young people, however, are growing marginally. The segment of Canada's population under15 has grown just 0.5 per cent over the past five years, representing 16.7 per cent of the population.

With files from the Associated Press, Canadian Press