Award Date

5-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Political Science

Department

Political Science

First Committee Member

Dennis Pirages, Chair

Second Committee Member

John Tuman

Third Committee Member

Jonathan Strand

Graduate Faculty Representative

Jennifer Keene

Number of Pages

108

Abstract

A combination of declining birthrates and increasing life expectancy in industrial countries has led to aging populations. In addition, more rapidly declining birth rates combined with only slowly increasing life spans has led to declining populations in some countries. These continuing demographic shifts are likely to be accompanied by economic, political and social changes. Japan is unique relative to other countries in four ways: 1) it has reached the condition of aging faster than any other industrialized country, 2) it has the highest life expectancy rate among major industrialized countries, 3) the proportion of elderly population (over 65) is the highest and 4) it has the highest projected population decline between now and 2050. None of these shifts augurs well for Japan’s social, economic and political future. There are no easy solutions to these emerging problems. While population aging and decline are related issues, they create different dilemmas, such as a shrinking work force, total population decline and lack of necessary economic and societal infrastructure to support a larger elderly population and therefore each requires different solutions. This paper will attempt to answer which dilemma(s) the Japanese government, bureaucracies and businesses are focusing on and to what degree? This is accomplished by reviewing three types of responses: increased immigration, pro-natalist incentives, and the changing nature of the work force and determining what responses are salient and show the most support by policy and that policies potential success. It is highly unlikely that Japan will attempt to deal with these challenges through increasing immigration, nor is it likely that the Japanese birth rate will substantially increase. A closer look then is made at the changing nature of the work force in Japan. In what ways is the labor force changing? How do these changes potentially affect family structure, gender roles and generational obligations? Japan is an important laboratory in which to study the effects of these demographic changes.

Keywords

Age distribution (Demography); Age-structured populations; Aging populations; Childbirth — Statistics; Declining populations; Demographic transition; Japan; Japan's aging population; Japan's declining birthrate; Population — Economic aspects; Population – Social aspects; Population aging

Disciplines

Demography, Population, and Ecology | Economic Policy | International Relations | Political Science | Politics and Social Change | Social Policy

Language

English