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Ed Driscoll

Mile Markers on the Demographic Death Watch

July 13th, 2013 - 4:59 pm

“Tokyo’s elderly account for more shoplifting than teens,” Japan Daily Press reports:

Boredom and isolation don’t just belong to teenagers anymore as a report from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police shows that there are now more elderly shoplifters than teenaged ones in Tokyo. This is the first time that this has happened since the police began keeping records about this particular crime.

Statistics show that 3,321 people aged 65 or older were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting in 2012, which accounted for almost a quarter or 24.5% of the total number of arrests. Those aged 19 or below accounted for 23.6% of figures, with 3,195 arrests made. Even though the total number of arrests have declined based on the statistics from 2011, the ratio of elderly people shoplifting is on the rise. While the statistics did not include reasons for shoplifting, the growing isolation of the elderly from society has been cited as a growing problem among that age group.

It’s not all that surprising that shoplifting is on the rise amongst Japan’s elderly, considering that teenagers themselves are on the decline there:

While predicting the future of these demographic trends is difficult, the causes are at least somewhat decipherable.  The proximate cause of population decline in Japan are fairly clear: a low fertility combined with increased life expectancy has led to a population structure that is increasingly weighted towards older members of society.  Currently there are significantly fewer people under 30 than there are between the ages of 30 and 60.  As the population of middle-aged individuals grows older and dies, there will be far fewer people remaining behind.  In other words, the current middle-aged generation of Japanese has failed to replace itself.  The question, of course, is why?

Various studies of demographic change in Japan have linked declining fertility to other changing social factors such as increased education, delayed marriage age, more economic opportunities for women, and the expense of raising children in modern, urban societies.  All of these have played a role in reducing fertility over the past few decades.  In addition, beyond delayed marriage many Japanese have chosen not to marry and, as a result, not have children.  According to the 2010 census, 30% of all households in Japan were single, representing the largest category of household composition in the country.  A significant portion of these households were widows over the age of 65. At the same time, a not insignificant portion were women and men in both early adulthood and middle-age who have simply chosen to not get married.  In a society like Japan where child-birth out of wedlock is stigmatized, the decision not to marry also normally means that one has chosen not to have children.

Indeed, there are many women in Japan today in their forties and fifties who have opted for a career over marriage and child-rearing.  In Japan, social pressures make it difficult for women to manage a career while also raising a family.  Furthermore, recent trends suggest that both men and women are increasingly uncertain about the value of marriage and having a family.

That last sentence has rather ominous implications for the Japan’s future, or the lack thereof. Fortunately, nothing like that could happen here in America

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