Elon Musk tweet raises debate in Japan about falling birth rates | Japan

Elon Musk has warned that Japan will “cease to exist” unless it tackles the declining birth rate, which is urging the country to allow more immigration and improve work-life balance.

“With the danger of saying the obvious, unless something is changed to make the birth rate exceed the death rate, Japan will eventually cease to exist. This would be a great loss to the world,”[ads1]; the Tesla chief, who recently agreed on a deal to buy Twitter for $ 44 billion (£ 36 billion). said in a post on Sunday.

Musk, who has previously expressed concern about global population collapse, responded to government data showing that Japan’s population fell by a record 644,000 last year – the 11th consecutive year of decline.

Some social media users said Japan was not the only developed economy experiencing a long-term population decline, but others used Musk’s tweet to criticize subsequent governments’ half-hearted attempts to increase the birth rate in the world’s third largest economy.

Japan’s population peaked in 2008 and had fallen to around 125 million last year, despite government warnings about the impact on economic growth and sporadic campaigns to encourage couples to have larger families.

Some Japan experts took Musk to task over his tweet.

“What’s the point of tweeting this?” wrote Tobias Harris, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “The concern about Japan’s demographic future is not that ‘Japan will eventually cease to exist’, but rather the deep social disturbances that arise as a result of the decline to a lower population level.”

Others called on the Japanese government to further ease the country’s strict immigration rules, although plans to take in up to half a million workers by 2025 to address severe labor shortages have been frustrated by the coronavirus pandemic.

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There were also calls for tackling the low birth rate, including making it easier for women to return to work after having children.

“They continue to say that the birth rate is falling, but given that the government is not taking thorough steps to deal with it, what can we say?” said a Twitter user. “Everything they say and do is contradictory.

“In this environment, who’s going to say ‘OK, let’s have a baby’? I despair for Japan.”

Experts blame Japan’s low birth rate on several factors, including the high economic costs of raising children, the lack of childcare and notoriously long working hours.

The country’s population is also one of the world’s oldest, with a record high of almost 29% aged 65 and up, according to government data.

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