Addressing increasing inequalities in Japan’s demographic shift

10 September 2018

Japan expert Dr. Capatina spoke at the ANU Japan update on the link between gender and demographics. Japanese citizens enjoy some of the longest lifespans in the world but a large gap exists by gender. Life expectancy at birth for women is an impressive 89 years of age, while for men it is seven years less, at 82 years of age.

“This large difference in life expectancy means that we can expect relatively long widowhood for women in Japan, and most widows experience a decline in living standards because of joint household resources that are often depleting when the husband dies,” said Dr. Capatina.

Dr. Capatina argues that addressing the diverse challenges of an ageing society will require an interdisciplinary approach, taking into account increasing economic, health, and intergenerational inequalities.

As she points out, “Japan is still one of the most egalitarian nations but aging has presented challenges to inequality due to health and long-term care needs. Through the diverse ways in which ageing has an impact on inequality it seems very important to adopt multidisciplinary perspectives.”

Even though Japan has largely enjoyed robust social infrastructure, it will also have to address tough questions with regard to increasing pressures associated with its ‘superageing’ demographic. As Dr. Capatina posed to the audience, “Who benefits from these public systems? … We can also ask the same about the costs of financing. How are they distributed? Who will bear the cost of the demographic transition the most?”

It seems inevitable that there will be winners and losers in the process.

Japan is already coming to terms with the challenges of demographic change. As a result, other nations will benefit greatly from its example. As Dr. Capatina points out, “aging is affecting all economies in East Asia and the effects will be felt not only domestically in Japan but throughout the region.”

By CAP Student Correspondant, Diana Tung.




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