Tweet from Elon Musk sparks debate in Japan about falling birth rate | Japan

Elon Musk has warned that Japan will “cease to exist” unless it tackles its declining birth rate, urging the country to allow more immigration and improve work-life balance.

“At the risk of saying the obvious, Japan will eventually cease to exist unless something changes causing the birth rate to exceed the death rate. This would be a huge loss to the world,” said Tesla’s CEO, who recently struck a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion (£36 billion). said in a message on weekends.

Musk, who previously expressed concern about the world’s population collapse, responded to government data showing that Japan’s population fell by a record 644,000 last year — the 11th consecutive year of decline.

Some social media users said Japan was not the only developed economy with a sustained population decline, but others used Musk’s tweet to criticize successive governments’ half-hearted efforts to increase the birth rate in the world’s third-largest economy.

Japan’s population peaked in 2008 and had fallen to about 125 million last year, despite government warnings about its effect on economic growth and occasional campaigns to encourage couples to raise larger families.

Some Japanese experts have come under scrutiny over Musk’s tweet.

“What’s the point of tweeting this?” wrote Tobias Harris, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “The concern about Japan’s demographic future is not that ‘Japan will eventually cease to exist’, but rather the profound social disruptions that are occurring as a result of its decline to lower population levels.”

Others called on the Japanese government to further relax the country’s strict immigration rules, though plans to allow up to half a million workers by 2025 to address the severe labor shortage have been frustrated by the coronavirus pandemic.

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There were also calls to tackle the low birth rate, including by making it easier for women to return to work after having children.

“They keep saying the birth rate is falling, but given that the government isn’t taking serious steps to address this, what can we say?” said one Twitter user. “Everything they say and do is contradictory.

“Who’s going to say in this environment, ‘Okay, let’s have a kid? I despair for Japan.”

Experts blame Japan’s low birth rate on several factors, including the high financial cost of raising children, lack of childcare facilities and notoriously long work hours.

The country’s population is also one of the oldest in the world, with a record nearly 29% of those aged 65 and over, according to government data.

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