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May 5, 2021 28 min

Japan is the “grayest” nation in the world. Close to 30 percent of the population is over 65. The reason is its low birthrate, which has caused the population to contract since 2007.

With the birthrate in the United States also dropping, what are the implications of a shrinking population, and what lessons can be learned from Japan?

Guest: Motoko Rich, the Tokyo bureau chief for The New York Times.  

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Background reading: 

  • The contracting population in Japan poses a serious threat to the country’s economic vitality and the security of its social safety net.
  • As Japan’s population shrinks and ages, rural areas are emptying out. In one childless village, two dozen adults compensate for the absence with the company of hundreds of giant handmade dolls.
  • The birthrate in the United States declined for the sixth straight year in 2020 and has fallen by about 19 percent since its recent peak in 2007.
  • For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily. Transcripts of each episode will be made available by the next workday. 

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