April 10, 2017 / 10:24 AM / 9 months ago

Japan tries to take heart from slightly slower population fall

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s population will fall nearly a third by 2065, with almost 40 percent aged 65 or older and the working population labouring under a tougher pension burden, although the pace of population decline has slowed slightly, a government agency said on Monday.

Solutions to Japan’s population slide have eluded policy makers for decades, putting finances under growing pressure as demand for pensions surges.

In 2015, the government established a new cabinet minister with the task of keeping the population from slipping below the demographic red line of 100 million by 2060.

A projection for 50 years, conducted once every five years by a branch of the Health Ministry, showed that the pace of population decline has slowed slightly from the last estimate in 2012, with the total set to fall below 100 million in 2053.

Earlier, the population was expected to fall to less than 100 million by 2048.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the slower pace of population decline showed government policies were working.

“I am sure that the next five years will show even more of an impact,” Suga told a news conference.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the ageing, shrinking population is not a burden but an incentive to boost productivity through innovations like robots, wireless sensors and Artificial Intelligence.

People aged 65 or older are expected to make up 38.4 percent of the population in 2065, with those 14 and under at 10.2 percent.

In 2015, the base year for the survey, people aged 65 or older made up 26.6 percent of the population, while those 14 or younger were at 12.5 percent.

The total population in 2065 will be 88.1 million, down from 127.1 million in 2015, a decline of 31 percent.

In a particularly grim prediction, there will be only 1.2 working people to support every person over 65 by 2065 compared with 2.1 in 2015. This is down from 1.3 people in the previous projection.

Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel

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