Japan’s population declined by the most on record in 2013, highlighting the demographic challenges faced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his campaign to revive the world’s third-biggest economy.
The population fell by 244,000, according to Health Ministry estimates released yesterday, a seventh straight year of decline. Births fell about 6,000 from a year earlier to 1,031,000 and deaths increased about 19,000 to 1,275,000.
Rising welfare costs for an ageing nation threaten to worsen a debt burden that is already twice the size of the Japanese economy. At the same time, a shrinking population caps consumer demand, making it harder for Abe to drive an exit from 15 years of deflation.
The government’s decision to raise a sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent in April is aimed at helping to secure funds for social welfare payments. That move threatens to undermine the momentum building in the economy from unprecedented monetary stimulus.