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(CNN) -- More than 10 percent of Japan's population is now 80 or older, the government said Monday, the latest worrying milestone in the country's rapidly aging demographic crisis.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the proportion of elderly in Japan, defined as over 65, also reached a record high, at 29.1% of the population, the highest rate in the world.

The Ministry released the figures on the occasion of the Day of Respect for the Elderly, a holiday in the country, which also faces a plummeting birth rate and a reduction in the working population that could affect the financing of pensions and health care as the demand of the elderly population increases.

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The Japanese population has not stopped declining since the economic boom of the 80s, with a fertility rate of 1.3, well below the 2.1 needed to maintain a stable population in the absence of immigration. Deaths have outpaced births in Japan for more than a decade, posing a growing problem for leaders of the world's third-largest economy.

The country also has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, contributing to the increase in the elderly population.


To address growing labor shortages and in hopes of revitalizing a stagnant economy, the Japanese government has over the past decade encouraged more seniors and stay-at-home mothers to re-enter the labor market.

To some extent, that message has worked: There are now a record 9.12 million older workers in Japan, a figure that has grown for 19 consecutive years. Workers over 65 already represent more than 13% of the national workforce, the Interior Ministry said Monday.

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Japan's senior employment rate is one of the highest in major economies, he added.

But even the promotion of older workers is not enough to counteract the social and economic impact of the demographic crisis. Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned in January that Japan is "on the verge of not being able to maintain social functions."

He added that support for parenting was the government's "most important policy", and that solving the problem "simply cannot wait any longer".

Nearby, China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are going through similar crises, struggling to encourage young people to have more children in the face of rising living costs and social unrest.

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