Labor is a fundamental driver of economic growth, both in terms of quality and quantity. As for the former – quality – Japan is home to a highly-educated and diligent workforce that can compete with any other country in the developed world. When it comes to quantity, however, Japan has a serious problem that has been mystifying various governments for the past 15 years.
Japan is in the grips of a major population crisis. Its total fertility rate is 1.4, which puts it among the lowest in the world, and if no radical changes are made the government projects that the 2013 population of 126 million could plummet to as low as 72 million by 2060. In 2013 alone the country shed 244,000 people. These harrowing estimates have led to disagreements over what demographic decline means for Japan’s future economic prospects. There has never been a case like it before; Japan is blazing a trail, but it’s one that no one would dare to follow.