The country of Japan is becoming older and older on average. There are less children born, and children born are born from increasingly older women. This extremely low fertility rate (1.41) has the result of actively depopulating Japan. Japan has 127.6 million inhabitants in 2016, but is set to half in the next few decades. In 2100 Japan may have (not counting life extension and rejuvenation therapies) less than 50 million inhabitants.
There is much to be said for natural decrease in populations, but the transitional phase where in a particular phase in history there are relatively a lot of old people in society is especially traumatic for all involved, since the young are generally assumed to take care of the old, one way or another. This will prove to be impossible in most post generation boom countries (including China and India, in a few decades, where the problem will be even worse!) and may lead to horrible results of neglect for old people. Imagine the stressful working conditions in old people’s homes right now, and then visualize those conditions with half or less of medical and care staff. Right now you already see old people in Japan being so ashamed to ask for assistance they are starving or literally dying of neglect. in significant numbers.
In Western Europe a tentative solution seems to be immigration. Europe now has significant immigrant populations and has clearly reached societal capacity (with three times the average population density of the US) to integrate large numbers of new citizens. This makes it understandable when Japan is highly societally resistant to migration, considering the insular language, culture and attitudes of the Japanese. And then there is also the issue of asking of migrants to come, primarily to take care of elderly citizens and pay taxes in some future period. There’s a good chance that faced with these odds various migrants might say 20-30 years from now to leave again (with a sizable retirement allowance to the original country) leaving Japan in an even worse situation.
Japanese society has evolved to be multi-resistant to parenting. It is extremely unappealing to Japanese women to have children. Japanese women face a perfect storm of being regarded as less, being assumed to stay at home, and making significantly less money or career with the prospect they might have children. In Japan career women are seen as utterly unsuitable for marriage and labeled “devil wives”. Such various polar gender roles and a host of other societal issues (high performance stress mostly) make sex and procreation extremely unappealing for Japanese men and women.
Japan needs a way to generate more citizens to keep its country functioning, long term. That means Japan needs about a half a million births a year to keep up. So what can be done?
There is an interesting opportunity here the central Japanese government here. If a country is depopulating, why not actively populate it? I can easily visualize various birth clinics in Japan, where eggs taken from particularly suitable young women and fertilized with sperm taken from ‘preferential’ Japanese males under laboratory conditions. There would be no reason not to genetically screen these fertilized eggs in all stages to screen our deficiency or genetic sickness. And there are sufficient resources in Japan to hire birth mothers from various nearby developing countries (Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, parts of China), have these mothers give birth under ideal conditions and then repatriate these mothers. Japan can then either have a percentage of these ‘national citizens’ raised by adopting parents, or Japan can raise them in dignified and pleasant stage orphanages.
This idea is shocking to many, no doubt. But it bears remembering that the world of the 21st century is an experiment. We are now doing things on this planet very few people could foresee mere decades ago. We are dealing with rates of consumption, demographics and technologies that were unthinkable half a century before and when faced with unprecedented conditions to respond with out of the box thinking. I personally have some hope things won’t be so bad in Japan as I assume that in ‘a few decades’ we will first have life extension treatments emerge from regenerative therapies, and not long after we will actually be able to rejuvenate human beings. I work from the assumption that these treatments will be widespread and affordable in countries such as Japan in the latter half of this century.
But even with that, Japanese society (as will many countries in Europe, including my own) will have to expend a massive amount of societal resources on its aged and there will be massive dangers of widespread abuse, hidden euthanasia and similar human rights violations. This problem could get very ugly.