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Japan facing worsening population crisis: study

Elderly living alone to make up a fifth of Japanese households by 2050, leading to soaring medical and welfare costs
People gather for the 'mamemaki' bean-throwing ceremony to drive away evil spirits and bring good luck at the annual Setsubun Festival, which marks the start of spring in the old calendar, at the Fukushima Inari Shrine in Fukushima on Feb. 3, 2022.

People gather for the 'mamemaki' bean-throwing ceremony to drive away evil spirits and bring good luck at the annual Setsubun Festival, which marks the start of spring in the old calendar, at the Fukushima Inari Shrine in Fukushima on Feb. 3, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 13, 2024 04:50 AM GMT
Updated: April 13, 2024 04:55 AM GMT

One in five Japanese households by 2050 will be elderly people living alone, a new study said on April 12, as Japan scrambles to find how to effectively care for its greying population.

By 2050, 10.8 million elderly people will be living alone, making up 20.6 percent of all households, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research said in a projection that it issues every five years.

It marks an increase since 2020, when 7.37 million elderly, or 13.2 percent of all households, lived alone.

The projection came as young Japanese people delay marriage or choose not to have children partly because they cannot afford to do so.

Japan is facing a steadily worsening population crisis, as its expanding elderly population leads to soaring medical and welfare costs and a shrinking labor force to pay for it.

Many elderly people currently have children or siblings who can look after them, even if they live alone, the institute said.

"However, 30 years from now, the proportion of elderly single-person households with no children -- whether married, bereaved, or separated -- is expected to increase, and the number of siblings of the individual will also decrease," the study warned.

Japan's overall population shrank by 595,000 to 124 million in 2023, marking the 13th straight annual fall, according to government data released on April 12.

The scale of the decrease was offset by an inflow of foreigners, the data showed, while the population of Japanese nationals dropped by 837,000 to 121 million.

The Japanese government has attempted to slow the decline and ageing of its population without meaningful success.

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