Declining Population and the Revitalization of Local Regions in Japan

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to highlight the need to both strengthen policies that promote an increase in the Japanese birthrate and the need for regional administrative restructuring corresponding to a population decline.
The Japanese government recently forecast a population decrease of 40 million within 50 years, which stems from a rapid decline in the birthrate from the 1970s. Comparing birthrates across Japan by prefecture, it is clear that birthrates in urban areas are low compared with rural areas. The low urban birthrates are exacerbated by a shortage of support systems for young families with children, making it difficult for women to balance work with childcare.
On the other hand, the population migration of young people to Tokyo is continuing, with most seeking better jobs and higher education. Many young people who come to the Tokyo metropolitan area will not have children due to a lack of family support. The population in local areas is falling due to this migration, while people in large cities are not reproducing quickly enough. As a result, the population decline in Japan as a whole will likely accelerate.
The Japan Policy Council (JPC), a private think tank, published a report in May 2014 forecasting that 896 municipalities will "vanish" in the near future for the reasons mentioned above. To avoid a population crisis, it is necessary to refocus economic and social investment in local cities and to restructure the administrative framework of municipalities.