It is no secret that Japan’s population is declining. According to the Ministry of Labor and Welfare, the birthrate in Japan was 1.37 in 2008, and at this pace, the working population in the year 2050 is estimated to be approximately 44.7 million people, or 21.7 million less than year 2004.
Therefore, many opinion leaders call for fiscal stimulus packages to encourage families to have more children. Yet, even if the birthrate were to double today, this will have no impact to increase the working population of Japan for the next several decades.
Even if Japan were to be successful in increasing the population, we would then face the reality that the ever increasing number of human beings will only increase the strains on the global eco-system. There are no other living organisms on this planet that uses up so much of the precious resources that Mother Nature provides.
Therefore, if we paused, took a deep breath, and looked at the situation, we would realize that Japan’s role in this world is to provide the very difficult, yet very meaningful, case study of how a large-scale economic society can sustain itself without having to rely on population growth.
An overseas observer of Japan made the following interesting remarks. “Japan does not need to worry about a dwindling population. Japan was able to achieve its economic miracle, with only half the population. Japan just needs to utilize the other half.”
The “other half,” of course, means “women.”
I found out later in Eiichi Shibusawa’s archives that he said the same thing during his time, about one hundred years ago.
“Of course, women are part of society and the foundation of a nation. We should get rid of social baggage of discrimination towards women, give women the same opportunities to attain skill, knowledge and virtue, and also strive to work with one another. Then, we can increase the 25 million working hands in our nation by utilizing the other 25 million.”