Japan Population and Economy

After the return of Okinawa to Japan by the US military administration (1972), the land area of ​​the country (372,839 km 2) has not undergone any change. According to government statistics, however, it is higher, because Japan claims four islands located south of the Kurils which, according to its own interpretation of the 1945 Yalta Agreement, should not be part of the actual Kuril Islands.

Population. – If we compare the demographic pyramid of 1935 with that of 1989, we can see the radical change in the demographic structure of Japan. From the pyramid of 1989 we note: 1) the damage caused by the Second World War to the male group of 65-74 years of age; 2) the result of the so  called baby-boom in the 40-44-year-old group, and 3) the generation of baby-boomers in the group aged 15 to 19. Currently the birth rate has decreased to 10.2 ‰ in 1989, while the mortality rate remains at 6.4 ‰. The increasing proportion of the elderly population is a major problem for Japanese society (the percentage of the over 65 age group was 5.7% in 1960, rising to 11.7% in 1989). The distribution of the Japan population, which is just under 123 million residents, is very unequal; examining the density in the 47 prefectures, it can be seen that it varies from more than 1000 to 100 residents / km 2. The rate of population growth is also very different between the various prefectures; some of them, especially those adjacent to large metropolitan areas such as, for example, Chiba, Kanagawa, Shiga and Nara, have an annual increase of over 10%, while others record a net decrease in population. The main causes of these differences must be attributed to the geographic mobility of the population and the difference in the demographic structure. In prefectures where urban and industrial development is relatively backward and where there has been a massive demographic exodus in the last three decades, the percentage of the elderly is much higher, with zero or negative population growth, as in the prefectures of Aomori, Akita and Wakayama.

Since the beginning of the 1950s, together with the economic growth due to the expansion of the manufacturing and tertiary industries, a rapid process of urbanization has emerged, considered both as the volume of immigrant population in the cities and in the sense of urbanized surface. This urbanization phenomenon was notable between 1955 and 1975. Among the 47 prefectures, the highest rate of urbanization is found, in descending order, in those of Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa, Hyogo, Aichi and Fukuoka. This means that urbanization is concentrated along the axis that extends from the Tokyo metropolitan area to the northern part of Kyushu, along the coast of the Pacific Ocean and the Seto Inland Sea. This belt, which is referred to as the Tokaido Megalopolis or the Pacific Megalopolis, boom Japanese economy of the mid-1950s. After the mid-seventies, the urbanization trend underwent a radical change: the metropolitan prefectures, such as those of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, no longer showed a great demographic vivacity, while the demographic development of the prefecture capitals and some shopping malls was especially important. Until the mid-1970s the four major metropolitan areas (Tokyo-Chiba-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe and Northern Kyushu) had shown almost the same rate of urban growth, while from the mid-1970s only the area Tokyo subway has marked a constant urban growth with the demographic development of the neighboring prefectures.

Agriculture, farming and fishing. – After the land reform carried out for the most part between 1946 and 1948, all Japanese peasants have become farmer-owners. The rising standard of living of the peasants has contributed significantly to the enlargement of the internal market. After the mid-1950s, with the process of rapid growth of the national economy essentially due to industrialization and outsourcing, the agricultural population, which in 1950 occupied 42% of the active population, fell to 8.4% at the late eighties. Agriculture is sometimes practiced for self-consumption or part-time by members of peasant families. This massive recourse to “ partialization ” of agricultural management was made possible by the protectionist policy of agricultural products, especially rice, whose price is kept at a level that is more than double the international one, as well as by the great mechanization that allows the saving of many working hours. However, this phenomenon has had many negative effects on the country’s agriculture. The fact that many peasant families, who derive their main income from non-agricultural activities, still maintain fractions of land as secondary income or as real estate property, prevents those few family businesses that want to consolidate agricultural management from enlarging the cultivated area and increase the level of productivity.

At the beginning of the 1960s, other sectors of agriculture and livestock also enjoyed effective protection, but under international pressure, especially from the United States, protectionist measures were abolished first on fruit and vegetables and gradually on others. agricultural products and, recently, also on livestock farming.

For the quantity of the catch, Japan is statistically surpassed by other countries, but it has always been in first place as regards the fish intended for food. A major problem is the depletion of fish resources in the exclusive economic zone, which extends up to 200 miles from the coast. To solve these difficulties and to respond to the increased demand from the internal market, Japan has tried to take initiatives in the field of mariculture and to boost imports; it has also entered into international agreements aimed at regulating fishing activity and safeguarding fish resources on a global scale. These solutions have led to some drawbacks, such as serious pollution of the seas caused by the breeding of fish and shellfish. Regarding the international negotiations for the conservation of fish stocks, the various countries involved present ” scientific ” data, sometimes even contradictory. Perhaps in the future the import of fish products from other countries will experience a notable increase; but, since in effect the operators of the exporting countries will make use of Japanese capital, with the exploitation of local fishermen, it will certainly not be possible to think of changing the current situation.

Industries. – Since the period of industrialization, Japan has always depended heavily on the foreign market, both for the supply of raw materials and for the sale of manufactured goods.

As for natural resources, before the Second World War, Japan could have some raw materials such as coal, raw iron or copper. Starting after the war, the country had to import almost all raw materials; hydroelectric production decreased significantly (12.7% in 1988), to be replaced by thermoelectric (63.6%) and nuclear (23.7%) energy. The composition of industrial production has also been changing. Before the Second World War, light industry predominated, especially in the export of textiles and miscellaneous products, while from the early 1960s the production of heavy industry overtook that of light industry; also as regards exports, in the same years, heavy industry products were predominant. Among the heavy industries, in the second half of the 1950s and 1960s the development of the chemical industry, including the petrochemical one, was remarkable, but with the oil crisis and increased anti-pollution measures this sector has gradually lost its importance. Shipbuilding and the steel industry, important for industrial exports, also lost competitive strength on world markets after the mid-1970s.  A rapidly expanding sector is that of the automobile industry, which has greatly benefited from the existence of an immense domestic market; exports also increased rapidly, especially after the mid-1970s, following the introduction of sophisticated robots into the automobile production cycle. after the mid-1970s they lost competitive strength on world markets. A rapidly expanding sector is that of the automobile industry, which has greatly benefited from the existence of an immense domestic market; exports also increased rapidly, especially after the mid-1970s, following the introduction of sophisticated robots into the automobile production cycle.

In addition to these conventional sectors of heavy industry, the Japanese government and leaders of the economic world have recently tried to intervene on the industrial structure of the country to cope with the rise in the yen, the cost of raw materials and the danger of excessive dependence on the foreign market for their supply. To some extent, Japan managed to achieve good results: energy consumption decreased after the oil crisis, and in some high-tech sectors, especially electronics, the country achieved a leading position on the world market. However, there is always the problem of high costs, especially of labor, which decreases the competitive strength of industrial products, and there are also the political and economic problems of the imbalance of trade with some countries caused by excessive exports by the Japanese. on-site of factories. The number of foreign workers in Japan has increased; this proportion, although still much lower than that of other countries, is already the cause of social problems.

Japan Population and Economy