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Japan's Declining Population and the Reality of Elderly Life

Elderly Ratio to Reach 31.6% in 2030
The total population of Japan is 127.08 million persons (as of October 2014). This figure has declined for four consecutive years and is 974,000 less than in 2010. By age group, the working-age population (15-64 years of age) is 77.85 million persons, accounting for 61.3% of the total population; the working-age ratio has continued on a downward trend since peaking at 69.8% in 1992. The juvenile population (0-14 years of age) is 16.23 million persons, accounting for 12.8% of the total; the juvenile ratio has continued a consistent decline since 1975 (24.3%). The elderly population (65 years of age or over) has continued to increase since1950 and in October 2014 stood at 33.00 million persons, accounting for 26.0% of the total.
According to population projections, in 2030 the total population is estimated to be 116.62 million persons, down 10.12 million from the 2014 level. By age group, the working-age population is estimated to be 67.73 million persons, down 10.12 million persons from the 2014 level and accounting for 58.1% of the total (down 2.5 percentage points). The juvenile population is estimated to number 12.04 million persons, down 4.19 million persons from the 2014 level and accounting for 10.3% of the total. The elderly population, meanwhile, is estimated to reach 36.85 million persons, accounting for 31.6% of the total.

Starting Age for Receiving Pensions Going Up
At present employees working in private companies can begin receiving their employees' pension when they reach 61 years of age. This threshold will remain in place until March 2016, after which it will be raised to 62 years from April 2016 until March 2019. Subsequently it will likewise be raised by one year every three years until reaching 65 years in 2025. For this reason, under the Act Concerning Stabilization of Employment of Older Persons, companies have been given the obligation of employing workers until they reach the age at which they can start receiving the employees' pension. Although some companies have raised their mandatory retirement age (currently 60 years), most companies continue to ask employees to retire at the age of 60 and then reemploy them at a lower wage. Provided that the worker has been subscribed to employment insurance for at least five years, if the wage after 60 drops to less than 61% of the previous level, a continued-employment-of-the-elderly benefit (15% of the wage) can be received.
In addition, since the basic pension, which is common for the whole population, begins at 65, workers do not receive their full pension until reaching that age. According to the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, in fiscal 2015 the standard pension for a married couple, including the basic pension, is 221,500 yen a month. Of that sum, the basic pension paid to individuals amounts to 65,000 yen a month.

Elderly Life, Solitary Deaths, Livelihood Protection
The average annual income per elderly household in Japan is 3,091,000 yen (257,600 yen a month). Of this, the public pension amounts to 2,119,000 yen a year (176,600 yen a month), accounting for 68.5% of the total. Since the average number of members of an elderly household is 1.56 persons, the per capita pension amounts to about 1,358,300 yen a year. Earned income is 557,000 yen, or 18.0% of the total. If the average annual income of all households (5,372,000 yen; average number of household members 2.64 persons) is taken to be 100, the average annual income of elderly households comes to 57.5%.
The ratio of elderly households whose income comes completely from public pensions is 57.8%; the ratio of all households for whom public pensions account for 80% or more of their total income is 11.9%.
As of May 2014, elderly households account for 24.2% of all households. Furthermore, the ratio of elderly persons living alone is 11.1% for men and 20.3% for women. These ratios are increasing year by year, and the issue of elderly people living alone is becoming a social problem. Cases have been reported of solitary deaths, in which elderly people pass away without anyone noticing and are not found for some time. In 2013 the number of elderly people aged 65 years or over living in the 23 special wards of Tokyo who died at home without being noticed by anyone was 2,869 persons.
The number of elderly people aged 65 years or older receiving livelihood protection is increasing year by year as well. The number rose from 490,000 in 2003 to 880,000 in 2013 (up 50,000 over the previous year). Moreover, the ratio of livelihood protection beneficiaries is rising too. In 2013 the ratio of livelihood protection beneficiaries to the total elderly population was 2.76%, which is higher than the ratio of livelihood protection beneficiaries to the total population (1.67%).

Reference: For more details, see the Cabinet Office's White Paper on the Aging Society.

Livelihood protection: On the basis of the Livelihood Protection Act, local governments provide livelihood protection benefits, in proportion to their needs, to all persons who are destitute in order to guarantee them a minimum standard of living. At present there are 2.17 million people in Japan receiving livelihood protection.

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