By Ahmet Furkan Mercan
TOKYO (AA) - Japan may be on track to becoming a "land of grandparents," as birth rates falls and its elderly population swells.
Last year saw annual births falling below 800,000 for the first time in the country, while as of the beginning of this year, just 11.6% of its 124.77 million population was up to 14 years old.
This is compared to 29% aged 65 years or older, the highest share of elderly population in any country, followed by Italy with 24.1% and Finland with 23.3%.
According to the data by the Japanese Interior and Communications Ministry in 2022, the number of people aged 75 years and up rose to 19.3 million, while those 65 and up increased to 36.2 million.
Data from 2021 by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry showed that the number of people over the age of 100 in the country exceeded 86,000 after rising for 51 years straight.
By 2040, the percentage of people age 65 and older in the total population is projected to exceed 35%, according to the National Institute for Population and Social Security Studies.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the country was "on the verge of losing its social functions" due to its falling birth rate, adding that this year, the government would focus on child-rearing policies.
- Elderly caring for their older parents
Locals in Tokyo spoke to Anadolu about the ongoing effort to rejuvenate population growth in the country.
For 44-year-old Konno, who has raised five children so far, the problem is more or less uniform for many: "Economic reasons, like marriage and the responsibilities that having a child brings. Marriage isn't desired."
"The biggest problem is the lack of increase in salaries, the desire of companies to hire cheap workers and the depreciation of the Japanese yen," said Tateishi, who has three children and six grandchildren.
Another Tokyo resident, Akiko, underlined that the Japan lags behind other developed country economies, saying: "While countries like China are constantly developing, there has been no progress in Japan for 30 years."
Suganuma, a 65-year-old retiree who grew up as an only child, said Japanese young people would rather earn higher wages or go to Europe or the US.
"The motivation of young people to get married and have children is quite low," Suganuma said.
Konno said that as Japanese people, they had to come to terms with the country's "elderly future."
"We can become a country unable to pay pensions. We may have to live with a situation where grandmothers have to look after grandmothers, as in 70-year-old 'elderly children' taking care of their 90-year-old parents."
*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz