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Chapter 2 Population (PDF:414KB)

1. Total Population

Japan's total population in 2011 was 127.80 million. This ranked tenth in the world and made up 1.8 percent of the world's total. Japan's population density measured 343 persons per square kilometer in 2010, ranking seventh among countries with a population of 10 million or more.


Figure 2.1 Population Pyramid


Table 2.1 Countries with a Large Population


Figure 2.2 Population Density by Country


From the eighteenth century through the first half of the nineteenth century, Japan's population remained steady at about 30 million. However, following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, it began expanding in tandem with the drive to build a modern nation-state. In 1926, it reached 60 million, and in 1967, it surpassed the 100 million mark. However, Japan's population growth has slowed in more recent years, with the annual pace of population growth averaging about one percent from the 1960s through the 1970s. Since the 1980s, it has declined sharply. Japan's 2005 total population was 127.77 million, declining from the previous year (127.79 million) for the first time after World War II. In 2011, it was 127.80 million, down by 259,000 from the year before.


Table 2.2 Trends in Population


2. Declining Birth Rate and Aging Population

The population pyramid of 1950 shows that Japan had a standard-shaped pyramid marked by a broad base. The shape of the pyramid, however, has changed dramatically as both the birth rate and death rate have declined. In 2011, aged population (65 years and over) was 29.75 million, constituting 23.3 percent of the total population and marking a record high. This percentage of elderly in the population is the highest in the world. The speed of aging of Japan's population is much faster than in advanced Western European countries or the U.S.A. Although aged population in Japan accounted for only 7.1 percent of the total population in 1970, 24 years later in 1994, it had almost doubled in scale to 14.1 percent. In other countries with an aged population, it took 61 years in Italy, 85 years in Sweden, and 115 years in France for the percentage of the elderly to increase from 7 percent to 14 percent of the population. These comparisons clearly highlight the rapid progress of demographic aging in Japan.


Figure 2.3 Changes in the Population Pyramid


On the other hand, in 2011, the child population in Japan (0-14 years) amounted to 16.71 million, accounting for 13.1 percent of the total population, the lowest level on record since the survey began. The production-age population (15-64 years) totaled 81.34 million. In share terms, it accounted for 63.7 percent of the entire population, continuing its decline since 1993. As a result, the ratio of the dependent population (the sum of aged and child population divided by the production-age population) was 57.1 percent. In terms of their proportion of the total population, the aged have surpassed the child group since 1997.


Table 2.3 Age Structure of Population by Country


Figure 2.4 Proportion of Elderly Population by Country


3. Births and Deaths

Population growth in Japan had primarily been driven by natural increase, while social increase played only a minor part. In 2005, however, the natural change rate (per 1,000 population) turned negative for the first time since 1899; the figure was -1.6 in 2011.

During the second baby boom, the birth rate was at a level of 19 (per 1,000 population) between 1971 and 1973. Since the late 1970s, however, it continued to drop. The rate for 2011 was 8.3.


Table 2.4 Vital Statistics


Figure 2.5 Natural Population Change


The general decline in birth rate may partly be attributable to the rising maternal age at childbirth. The average mothers' age at first childbirth rose from 25.6 in 1970 to 30.1 in 2011. The total fertility rate was on a downward trend after dipping below 2.00 in 1975. It marked a record low of 1.26 in 2005 and started to increase after that. The total fertility rate reached 1.39 in 2011, the same rate as that of the previous year.

The death rate (per 1,000 population) was steady at 6.0 - 6.3 between 1975 and 1987. Since 1988, however, it has shown uptrend, reflecting the increased percentage of the elderly in the overall population. The death rate was 9.9 in 2011.

Average life expectancy in Japan climbed sharply after World War II, and is today at the highest level in the world. In 2011, life expectancy at birth was 85.9 years for women and 79.4 years for men.


Table 2.5 Changes of Mothers' Age at Childbirth


Figure 2.6 Life Expectancy at Birth by Country


4. Marriages and Divorces

The annual number of marriages in Japan exceeded one million in the early 1970s, which, coupled with the marriage rate (per 1,000 population) hovering over 10.0, showed an apparent marriage boom. However, both the number and rate started declining thereafter. They rose again in the late 1980s but have, though fluctuating repeatedly. In 2011, a total of 662,000 couples married and the marriage rate became 5.2 as a result, down for the third consecutive year.

The mean age of first marriage was 30.7 for men and 29.0 for women in 2011, a rise by 2.3 years and 3.0 years, respectively, over the past twenty years. The declining marriage rate and rising marrying age in recent years as described above is one explanation for the dropping birth rate.


Figure 2.7 Changes in Marriage Rate and Divorce Rate Table 2.6 Mean Age of First Marriage


In contrast, divorces have shown an upward trend since the 1960s, hitting a peak of 290,000 in 2002. Subsequently, both the number of divorces and the divorce rate have been declining since 2003. In 2011, the number of divorces totaled 236,000, and the divorce rate (per 1,000 population) was 1.87.


5. Households

(1) Household Size and Household Composition

The Population Census shows that Japan had 51.84 million private households in 2010, going over 50 million for the first time since the Census began. Of that total, 56.4 percent were nuclear-family households, and 32.4 percent were one-person households.

From the 1920s to the mid-1950s, the average number of household members remained at about five. However, due to the increase in one-person households and nuclear families since 1960s, the size of household was down significantly in 1970, to 3.41 members. The size of household members continued to decline to 2.42 in 2010. Although the Japanese population has shifted into decline, the number of households is expected to continue to increase for some years to come, as the size of the average household will shrink further. The number of households is projected to peak in 2015 and then decrease thereafter.


Table 2.7 Households and Household Members


According to the Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions 2011 (excluding Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures), regarding the structure of households, nuclear-family households accounted for the largest share of total households (60.6 percent). Then, one-person households accounted for 25.2 percent.


Figure 2.8 Changes in Household Composition


(2) Elderly Households

In 2011, elderly households (defined as households consisting of individuals aged 65 years or over, with or without unmarried dependents below the age of 18) numbered 9.58 million (excluding Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures), representing 20.5 percent of the total households. The number of one-person elderly households was 4.70 million. In 2011, three out of four one-person elderly households were women's. The number of households consisting only of wife and husband aged 65 years or over reached 4.60 million.


Table 2.8 Trends in Elderly Households


6. Population Density and Regional Distribution

(1) Population Density

In 2010, Tokyo had the largest population of 13.16 million among Japan's 47 prefectures, followed in decreasing order by the prefectures of Kanagawa, Osaka, Aichi, and Saitama. These five prefectures each had a population of seven million or more, and together accounted for 35.7 percent of the total population.

The population density in Tokyo was the highest among Japan's prefectures, at 6,016 persons per square kilometer. This was almost 18 times the national average (343 persons per square kilometer).

In 2010, there were 12 cities in Japan with a population of one million or more. Their total population topped 28 million, a figure equivalent to 22.5 percent of the national total. The largest single city was the 23 wards (ku) of central Tokyo, with 8.95 million citizens. It was followed in decreasing order by Yokohama-shi (3.69 million), Osaka-shi (2.67 million), and Nagoya-shi (2.26 million).


Figure 2.9 Population Density by Prefecture


Table 2.9 Population of Major Cities


(2) Population Distribution

The percentage of the urban population grew since the late 1950s. In 2005, 44.9 percent of the entire national population was concentrated within a 50-kilometer radius from the centers of the three largest cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, respectively (together comprising 6.1 percent of Japan's total land area). Population density measured 4,158 persons per square kilometer in the Tokyo area, 2,094 in the Osaka area, and 1,204 in the Nagoya area.


Table 2.10 Population of Three Major Metropolitan Areas



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