If you’re of working age in Japan, daily life can mean 12- to 16-hour days punctuated by hurried meals and bookended by too little sleep.
If you’re elderly, it can mean crushing loneliness.
But no matter your age in Japan, chances are good that some aspect of the country’s ongoing fertility crisis has touched your life.
Over the last five years, a vicious cycle of low fertility and low consumer spending has led to trillions in lost GDP and a population decline of 1 million people. Economists have a bleak term for this: demographic time bomb.
These time bombs can take years, sometimes decades to form, and perhaps even longer to defuse. Here’s a taste of what Japan’s looks like, as it stands today.
Demographic experts say that countries need a replacement fertility rate of 2.2 children per woman to keep a population steady. Japan’s rate is just 1.41.
In the aftermath of World War II, Japan focused its effort on rebuilding the population, which it did.
But there was a clear downside to that economic growth. In the early 1950s, fertility rates hovered at a healthy 2.75 children per woman, UN data shows.
By 1960, as businesses asked more and more of their employees, the fertility rate had fallen to 2.08.
The intense post-WWII work ethic has lasted. It’s common for Japanese workers to log shifts spanning more than half a day.
Despite the ongoing crisis, this is largely how Japan manages to remain the third-largest economy in the world.
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