Rapid increase in the number of foreigners and single-person households


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The 2020 census is complete. The data shows a dramatic increase in Japan’s foreign population as well as single-person households (people living alone).

Japanese society is already facing drastic change as its population declines, these two factors are likely to make change even more dramatic.

Foreigners increase by 44% compared to the previous census

The increase in the foreign population is the first outstanding statistic. The number of foreigners in Japan rose 43% from the last survey in 2015, by 834,607 to a record high of 2,747,137 people.

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Japanese school children.

A closer look shows that the increase was astonishingly almost eight times as high as in the previous period, in which an increase of 104,331 was recorded. The increase is due to the government’s active acceptance of foreign workers, a measure taken to address the Japanese labor shortage.

Slowdown in population decline

The rise in the number of foreign residents has slowed the decline in Japan’s total population. That decrease was 948,646, about 14,000 fewer than the previous census.

Looking only at the native Japanese population, the decrease was 1,783,253, 708,300 more than the previous census. Almost half of the decline in Japan’s total population has been offset by the increase in foreigners.

The increase in the number of foreign residents amid Japan’s shrinking native population poses another problem. Foreigners currently make up 2.2% of the total population, but the number of Japanese will decline sharply in the future. If the foreign population continues to grow at the pace of the past five years, that proportion will increase rapidly.

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Foreign population is expected to reach 12% by 2065

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Foreign worker assisting the elderly in Japan.

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the “foreign population”, which includes not only foreigners but also naturalized and international children (children with foreign parents), will be around 10.76 million People account for 12.2% of the total population in 2065.

Of these, 16% are 0-19 years old and 17.9% are 20-44 years old. Every fifth to sixth young worker falls into this category.

If the foreign population increases at the same time, Japanese society will undoubtedly look very different in the future.

When a country like Japan, with its declining population, takes in large numbers of foreigners, there is a sudden change in its culture and the lifestyles of its citizens. The continued expansion of the number of incoming foreigners without the understanding of the current population will increase tension in many parts of society and could lead to social division and misunderstanding.

Sharp increase in single-person households

In addition to the increasing number of foreign residents, another glaring statistic from the census is the rapid increase in single-person households. This year’s census found 21,151,042 such households, an increase of 14.8% from the previous census.

One-person households now make up 38.1% of total households and are thus significantly larger than both the proportion of “households with couples and children” (25.1%) and “households with only couples” (20.1%) and the “One-person households”. Parents and Children ”(9.0%).

While the number of one-person households increased sharply, the number of households with three or more inhabitants decreased. The average number of people per household is now 2.21.

The family composition has changed drastically in Japan and the country is developing into a society in which one cannot rely on the support of the family.

Looking at the single-person households by age, men between 25 and 34 years of age form the largest group with 28.8%.

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Elderly in Japan

Among women, the 75 to 84 year olds form the largest group with 26%, a further 25.6% in the group of women aged 85 and over.

The third largest group of the female population is 25-34. Young women in this group make up 19.7% of the total, showing that both men and women are in large numbers living alone after taking up employment. There is an accompanying trend towards late marriages and individuals who don’t start a family until they are in their early 30s.

19% of the elderly live alone

The reason many women live alone after age 75 is longevity. The average life expectancy in Japan is longer for women, and the life expectancy of women who are widowed, divorced, or reached old age without being married has increased.

The number of elderly people living alone in Japan is 6,716,806 in 2020. The number of men is 2,308,171. While the number of women is 1.9 times higher, the difference of 4,408,635 people is striking.

Of the older people aged 65 and over, 19% live alone (15% of men and 22.1% of women). the Annual Report of the Cabinet on the Aging Society (Edition 2009) predicts that the proportion of men will rise to 20.8% and that of women to 24.5% in 2040.

In addition to the increasing life expectancy of the elderly, there are other factors that contribute to the increase in single-person households in this age group. There are many cases of elderly people not living together with children, as well as cases of elderly people without children, reflecting the declining birth rate. These tendencies are likely to intensify in the future.

Older people living alone have less access to supermarkets and hospitals and become “shopping refugees” or “outpatient refugees”. The additional costs such as heating and water as well as the rent tend to be higher than in multi-person households.

As more part-time workers reach retirement age in the future, the number of older people who do not have adequate retirement provisions will also increase. Living alone can create new problems not covered by traditional social security policies.

The government should first clarify quickly what effects the increase in foreigners and single households will have on Japanese society, whose overall population is falling sharply. Then the government must take action before it is too late.

(Read this Sankei Shimbun Article in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Masashi Kawai, guest editor

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