Elon Musk has warned that unless Japan solves its declining birthrate, it will “stop to exist,” prompting calls for the country to allow more immigration and better its work-life balance.
“At the risk of stating the obvious, Japan will someday cease to exist unless something occurs to cause the birthrate to exceed the death rate.” This would be a huge loss for the globe,” said Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO who just agreed to buy Twitter for $44 billion (£36 billion).
Musk, who has previously expressed concern about global population loss, was responding to government data indicating that Japan’s population fell by a record 644,000 people last year, the 11th year in a row.
Others used Musk’s tweet to criticize successive governments’ half-hearted attempts to improve the birthrate in the world’s third-largest economy, saying Japan was not the only wealthy economy experiencing long-term population decrease.
Despite government warnings about the impact on economic growth and occasional initiatives to urge couples to have more families, Japan’s population peaked in 2008 and had plummeted to around 125 million by last year.
Some Japanese academics chastised Musk for his tweet.
“What is the point of tweeting this?” you might wonder. Tobias Harris, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, wrote the following. “The fears about Japan’s demographic future aren’t so much that ‘Japan will eventually cease to exist,’ but rather the fundamental social dislocations that are occurring as a result of the population reduction.”
Others urged the Japanese government to modify the country’s rigid immigration policies, despite the coronavirus pandemic delaying plans to admit up to half a million blue-collar migrants by 2025 to meet severe labor shortages.
There were also suggestions for addressing the low birthrate, such as making it simpler for women to return to work after having children.
“They keep saying the birthrate is declining, but what can we say when the government isn’t doing anything about it?” According to one Twitter user. “They contradict themselves in all they say and do.”
“Who in this situation is going to say, ‘OK, let’s have a child?'” I’m worried about Japan.”
Experts attribute Japan’s low birthrate to a variety of factors, including the high financial expense of raising children, a lack of daycare options, and the country’s traditionally long working hours.
According to government figures, the country’s population is also one of the world’s oldest, with about 29 percent of the people aged 65 and up.