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Japan - Demographic Determinants Of Aging, Characteristics Of The Older Population, Policy Challenges

age percent five world pace

At the start of the twenty-first century, 17 percent of the Japanese population was age sixty-five or older—a proportion matched only by Belgium, Greece, Italy, and Sweden, and surpassed by Monaco with 22 percent. What sets Japan even further apart from the rest of the world is the speed with which this aging has occurred. For example, it took Sweden eighty-five years to increase from 7 percent to 14 percent sixty-five and older, whereas in Japan it took only twenty-six years. The reason for the extraordinary pace of aging in Japan is the much shorter period during which Japanese women shifted from having five or more children to fewer than two and the dramatic improvements in survival, especially after World War II. In response to the rapid pace of aging in Japan, public and political attention there has become more focused on the issue of aging perhaps than in other developed countries. This entry will review the demographic factors influencing past and future aging in Japan, the circumstances of today's elderly population, and the challenges of developing policies to accommodate the rapid change in age structure.

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