Vastavam web: Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso has reluctantly apologized for saying childless people are to blame for the country’s rising social security costs and its aging and declining population. “If it made some people feel uncomfortable, I apologize,” Aso said Tuesday after drawing complaints over a comment he made during the weekend at a seminar in Fukuoka, his constituency in southwestern Japan.
The gaffe-prone Aso, a 78-year-old former prime minister, is among conservative lawmakers in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government who have at times blamed the elderly or childless for long-term demographic trends. According to the latest government statistics, the number of births in 2018 fell to 921,000, the lowest since Japan began recording such statistics in 1899. Japan’s total population fell by 448,000 people, a record decline, to 126 million. It is forecast to fall below 100 million by 2050, barring a huge influx of immigrants.
Abe himself has no children. He has acknowledged that lack of access to affordable child care, excessively long working hours, elder care and other realities of life, especially in Japan’s biggest cities, are major factors behind the country’s low birthrate. But promised labor and other reforms to help alleviate the burden on families that discourage couples from having more children have made limited headway.
Japan is known for longevity, another factor behind the aging of its population and rising costs for elder care. Aso said his comment was taken out of context and misunderstood, but opposition lawmakers disagreed.