Survey shows 'super-gray' Japan in 2060

Japan will become a "super-gray" society in 2060, as people aged 65 or over will account for 39.9 per cent of the population that year, according to a survey conducted by a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry institution.

The nation's total fertility rate--the average number of children each woman will have in her lifetime--will be 1.35 in 2060, up 0.09 points from the previous survey released in 2006, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research said Monday.

However, the nation's total population will continue to drop, from 128.06 million in 2010 to 86.74 million in 2060.

The nation's population 50 years on is estimated every five years in tandem with a national census. The estimate is used as basic data for various indexes such as public pension finances and economic growth.

This time, the institute made three types of estimates based on the census conducted in 2010: moderate, optimistic and pessimistic.

In its moderate estimate, the institute revised upward the long-term outlook for the total fertility rate after it recovered to 1.39 in 2010 from the record low of 1.26 in 2005.

The institute said the recovery of the total fertility rate in recent years can be attributed to women in their mid-30s deciding to have children after previously being reluctant due to worsening economic conditions.

The total fertility rate is expected to drop again in the years ahead, but eventually move upward and reach 1.35 in 2060, the institute said. However, the population will continue to shrink, as at least 2.07 children per woman are necessary to maintain the population.

In 2048, the population is expected to fall below 100 million, two years earlier than the previous estimate.

The average longevity of Japanese men is expected to increase to 84.19 years in 2060 from 79.64 in 2010, and women's lifespans will also rise, to 90.93 from 86.39. The number of people aged 65 or older will peak in 2042 with 38.78 million, and then drop to 34.64 million in 2060.

The number of juveniles aged under 15 was 16.84 million, or 13.1 per cent of the total population, in 2010. The figure will drop to 7.91 million, or 9.1 per cent, in 2060, according to the institute.

The working-age population--those aged from 15 to 64--will drop from 81.73 million, or 63.8 per cent of the total population, in 2010 to 44.18 million, or 50.9 per cent, in 2060.