Rate of Japan's aging unparalleled in world

The aging of society is accelerating at an unprecedented pace in Japan--faster than any other country in history.

The percentage of Japan's population aged 65 or older, or population aging rate, reached 20.1 per cent in 2005, the world's highest figure, due mainly to advances in medical technologies.

According to U.N. statistics, a population aging rate of 7 per cent indicates the significant aging of a society.

The number of years it took for Japan's 7 per cent population aging rate to double to 14 per cent, the international benchmark for identifying an "aged society," was 24.

This figure is peculiarly short when compared with corresponding figures for France (115 years), Sweden (85) and Britain (47).

It is said the total fertility rate, the expected number of children born per woman during her childbearing years, should be no less than 2.07 to keep a country's population from declining.

Japan fell below this rate in 1974 at 2.05.

The nation's population began dwindling in 2005, with no end to the overall downtrend in sight, although total fertility rates have fluctuated slightly in subsequent years.

Despite its rapidly expanding economy, China will also enter an era of population shrinkage in the not-too-distant future.

China's population is projected to peak at about 1.395 billion in 2025, from then on heading downward to about 941 million in 2100.

Some countries, however, have had success in raising their total fertility rates.

In France, the figure shrank to 1.66 in 1993, but increased to 2.01 in 2008.

It is said a primary key to France's success is government policies centering around child-rearing allowances, which have been coupled with employment assistance for women since the 1990s, as well as other measures to help reduce the burdens of delivery and child rearing.