Politics

Elon Musk Says Japan Will Eventually Cease to Exist 

But this time, data is on Musk’s side.
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When you’re the world’s richest man, a single tweet can have the effect of a financial windfall or economic disaster on the subject of your post. That's exactly the power of Elon Musk. 

On May 8, 2022, Japan became the unfortunate subject of Musk’s Twitter musings, saying Japan will eventually cease to exist. But this time, data is on Musk’s side. 

His tweet was a response to a news report stating Japan’s population has fallen by 664,000 in 2021 from a year earlier. 

That’s more than the current population of Muntinlupa (543,000), or Makati (629,000). 

According to Nikkei Asia, the huge decline in Japan’s population in 2021 is the largest since the 1950s, and represented a 0.5 percent downtrend from 2020. Based on Japan’s 2021 census, the country has a population of 125.5 million. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is partly to blame for the statistics, Japan has long been suffering a demographic crisis brought on by a younger population unwilling to have children. Currently, Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectancy at 85 years, but also has the one of the world’s lowest fertility rates at 1.368 per woman in 2021. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a total fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman ensures a broadly stable population.

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In 2021, Japan had 1.44 million deaths versus 831,000 births through September.

Elon Musk and Population Decline Tweets

It is not the first time Musk talked about population or its decline. The billionaire founder of SpaceX and Tesla is known as a staunch believer in a healthy demographic complexion. In September 2021, Musk tweeted how the biggest threat to humanity’s existence is low birth rates:

Musk was responding to a tweet that showed a visualized state of the world’s fertility rates based on a United Nations report, which states that the world’s fertility rate has dropped from 2.7 in 2000 to 2.4 in 2019. 

Photo by United Nations: World Population Prospects 2019.
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Why Japan Has Low Birth Rates

In a 2019 report by NPR.org, Laurel Wamsley points to cultural factors as a culprit in the Japan’s declining population: 

What accounts for the steep drop in births? The health ministry points to the declining numbers of people of reproductive age, as the offspring of baby boomers get older. That joins other factors — namely the immense burden shouldered by Japanese women to do housework and child care by themselves, and a culture that makes it difficult to both have a job outside the home and be a mother. Younger generations of Japanese women have increasingly opted to continue working, rather than get married, have children and give up their careers.

Wamsley also shines a light on Japan’s extremely low births among women outside of wedlock:

Having children outside of wedlock is also extremely rare: just 2.3 percent of children were born outside of marriage in Japan, compared to about 40 percent in the United States. Marriage rates in Japan have halved since the early 1970s, and birth rates have declined in tandem.




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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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