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EDITORIAL | Amid Population Decline, Metro Tokyo Needs a Growth Strategy

Despite the population decline intensifying, the Tokyo metropolitan area remains crucial in driving Japan's economy forward.



These children are playing in a park in Tokyo's Edogawa ward. Meanwhile, the population under the age of 15 is steadily declining. May 4, 2023. (© Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)

As of January 1, 2023, Japan recorded a population of 122.42 million nationals. This was per a population dynamics survey using Japan's Basic Resident Register. It was conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. This marks the 14th consecutive year of population decline.

In 2022 there was a significant decrease of 800,000 people compared to the previous year.  Notably, all 47 prefectures experienced a decrease in population for the first time.

The Kishida administration must recognize the gravity of the situation and promptly implement the measures outlined in the "Children's Future Strategy" to address the declining births.

Included in the Strategy

The strategy encompasses various initiatives, including expanding child allowances, enhancing parental leave benefits, reducing financial burdens for higher education, and improving childcare services.

Prompt implementation of these policies is vital, as is ensuring widespread public awareness. We must avoid a scenario where these valuable measures are underutilized by those eligible to use them.

The latest survey reveals that the population of Japanese nationals in the Tokyo metropolitan area ーSaitama, Chiba, Tokyo, and Kanagawa prefectures ー has once again declined this year. This follows the trend observed in 2022. 

The decline is influenced by the aging population, leading to a nationwide decrease in births and an increase in deaths. A significant factor contributing to this decline is the "natural decrease," the net effect of births and deaths. 

Currently, that is progressing faster than the "social increase," the population growth from factors like migration. As a result, the Tokyo metropolitan area is facing the impact of this population decrease.

Each governor offered a series of opinions on countermeasures against the declining birthrate at a meeting of the National Governors' Association on July 25. In Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture (©Sankei by Takashi Hirao)

Sustaining Tokyo's Vitality and Economy

Despite the population decline intensifying, the Tokyo metropolitan area remains crucial in driving Japan's economy. Establishing a new growth model that sustains vitality and dynamism is an urgent task.

Restructuring cities to accommodate the growing elderly population and promoting elderly employment to address the labor shortage are also imperative. Additionally, harnessing digital technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance productivity is equally essential.

The baby boomer generation, with its large population, has seen many members migrate to major metropolitan areas for employment and other opportunities. The younger generation, referred to as the baby boomer juniors, who were born and raised in these cities, will eventually become senior citizens. 


Consequently, there is projected growth in the demand for healthcare and caregiving services. Urgent attention is needed to strengthen regional healthcare facilities, facility-based care, and home-based caregiving to meet this increasing demand.

'Migration Without Changing Jobs'

However, it is crucial to note that the population decline in the Tokyo metropolitan area does not necessarily indicate a correction of extreme centralization. All four prefectures in the Tokyo region continue to experience a "social increase." To address concerns such as disaster risk reduction, measures to alleviate extreme centralization should be pursued.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, advocating the "Digital Garden City" initiative, aims to encourage "migration without changing jobs." However, achieving this goal may not be straightforward, requiring comprehensive efforts from both the government and private sectors.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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