Japan’s working population shrank further last year with its ratio to overall population dropping to a record low, while the pace of increase in the number of foreigners accelerated, government data showed Friday.
The annual data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reflect the country’s deepening labor crunch, which has prompted the government to introduce a new visa system from this month to bring in more foreign workers to take up mainly blue-collar jobs.
The overall population as of last October declined 263,000 to 126.44 million, falling for the eighth straight year. The working-age population aged 15 to 64 shrank 512,000 to 75.45 million, or 59.7 percent of the total, tying the lowest level recorded in 1950 when comparable data became available. The ratio peaked in 1992 at 69.8 percent.
The number of foreigners increased 167,000 to 2.23 million, growing for the sixth straight year.
Japanese nationals decreased 430,000 from a year earlier to 124.22 million, meaning the population decline would have been steeper without the continued rise in foreign nationals coming to Japan.
A different survey by the Justice Ministry showed earlier in the month that the number of foreign nationals living in Japan has grown due largely to the rise in students and technical trainees.
Japan, which has a very stringent immigration policy, now expects to accept up to 345,000 foreign workers under the new visa program.
The latest data highlight the rapid pace of the population’s aging in Japan. Among countries with a population of more than 40 million, the ratio of people aged 65 or older in Japan was the highest at 28.1 percent, or 35.58 million while that of people under 15 was the lowest at 12.2 percent, according to the internal affairs ministry.
People aged 70 or above accounted for 20.7 percent, surpassing the 20 percent mark for the first time.
Japan’s population has been on the decline since peaking at 128.08 million in 2008. The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research predicts Japan’s population
will fall below 100 million in 2053.