The Post Is Terrified That Japan Will Become Less Crowded

Japan is an extremely densely populated country. Because of its low birth rate and immigration rate, it is likely to become less crowded in the future. While most normal people would probably consider this a positive development, the Washington Post ran an Outlook piece expressing horror at this prospect.

The headline tells readers that: "even as population shrinks, Japan remains wary of immigration." It goes on to warn of a "demographic crisis," telling readers that:

"The population is aging and shrinking -- a formula for economic calamity and social stagnation. Over time, there will be too few workers to care for the millions of elderly citizens, grow food on farms or fill the manufacturing jobs that drive this export-led economy."

Those who have taken an intro economics class know that there are no special economic problems created by a declining population. See, it is not necessary to grow food on farms if a declining population needs less food. It is not necessary to "fill the manufacturing jobs" if a declining population does not need the items produced in these factories.

When the workforce shrinks, workers will leave less productive jobs, like working in restaurants or parking garages (or in densely populated Japan -- pushing people into over-crowded Tokyo subway cars) and go into the jobs that are still needed, like caring for the aged. There is nothing resembling a problem, much less a crisis, in the declining population scenario described in this article.

--Dean Baker

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