Japan’s population experienced a significant decline in 2022, dropping by 801,000 Japanese nationals
compared to the previous year, according to government data released on Wednesday, July 26th. This
marks the largest population drop in the country’s history and the first time all 47 prefectures have seen
a decrease since demographic surveys began in 1968. As of January 1, 2023, Japan’s total population,
including foreign residents, stood at 125,416,877, reflecting a decrease of approximately 511,000 from
the previous year’s figures. This demographic trend highlights the urgent need for Japan to implement
measures addressing the declining birthrate and enhancing employment opportunities, particularly for
youth and women in regional areas.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has called for “unprecedented” initiatives to boost the birthrate, striving to
halt the population decline by 2030. However, doubts persist about the effectiveness of such measures,
as they mainly consist of extensions of existing policies. In 2022, Japanese nationals declined for the 14th
consecutive year, with a record low of 772,000 births contrasted by a record high of 1.57 million deaths
in the country. Additionally, nationals working or studying abroad contributed to a decline of around
7,000 in the population. Okinawa, which had been an outlier in the previous year, experienced a
population decrease for the first time since comparable data became available in 1973.
Amidst this decline, the foreign population in Japan saw an increase for the first time in three years,
rising by approximately 289,000 to reach 2,993,839 in the reporting year. This upswing was facilitated by
the relaxation of strict COVID-19 border controls, enabling the return of international students and
technical interns. As the foreign population continues to grow, the National Institute of Population and
Social Security Research estimates that foreign nationals will constitute 10% of Japan’s population by
2070. Certain local governments have already begun efforts to attract professional talent from Asia to
address the demographic challenges.