Japan’s Population Down 644,000 in 2021 — Biggest Drop on Record

Kyodo News Agency is reporting that Japan’s population had its largest drop on record, falling by 644,000 to just over 125.5 million in 2021.

The government in Tokyo is attributing the change to a decline in foreign residents amid tighter border controls over the coronavirus pandemic and the rapidly aging society.

Japan’s population stood at 125,502,000 as of Oct 1, down 644,000 from a year earlier for the 11th consecutive year of decline. The drop was the biggest since comparable data became available in 1950, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said.

The number of foreign nationals living in Japan dropped by 25,000 to 2,722,000 following the strict border controls that were put in place to mitigate imported coronavirus cases.

Japanese nationals totaled 122,780,000, a drop of 618,000 from a year earlier. While Japan saw 831,000 births in 2021, the number was outpaced by the year’s 1.44 million deaths.

Japan faces the dual challenge of a declining workforce and a graying population. The pace of population decline, however, had slowed in recent years, helped by an increase in foreign workers coming to the country under a relaxed visa system to help ease the labor shortage.

Coronavirus border controls prevented businesses struggling with labor shortages from hiring foreign workers and prompted the business community to call for easing the measure.

The working population, or people between 15 and 64, dropped by 584,000 to 74,504,000, accounting for 59.4 percent of the overall population, a record low.

Those 14 and below accounted for an all-time low of 11.8 percent of the total population, while people 65 and over made up a record high of 28.9 percent.

Japan has approved Pfizer–BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford–AstraZeneca for injecting their population with synthetic mRNA. By the end of October 2021, government data indicated that 70 percent of the Japanese population had been fully vaccinated.

As of November 14, 2021, among a national population of approximately 125 million, an estimated 99.3 million (79.4%) of the Japanese have received at least one dose and 95.6 million (76.4%) have received two. Of these shots, 83.6% were of BNT162b2, 16.3% of mRNA-1273, and <0.1% of ChAdOx1-S. People receiving BNT162b2 were older and more likely to be women compared to those receiving mRNA-1273, whereas the majority of people receiving ChAdOx1-S were middle-aged men.