EntertainmentElon Musk: Japan's birth rate will cause the nation...

Elon Musk: Japan’s birth rate will cause the nation to ‘cease to exist’

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Kijuro Takazawa lies on the robotic hospital bed that takes care of him in Roujin Z
Will Japan need to introduce robotic hospital beds to take care of its elderly population? Pic credit: Movic/APPP

Elon Musk, the famous billionaire and entrepreneur, regularly posts on Twitter about various topics. And recently, the SpaceX founder and CEO shared his thoughts about Japan’s decreasing birth rates.

“At risk of stating the obvious, unless something changes to cause the birth rate to exceed the death rate, Japan will eventually cease to exist. This would be a great loss for the world,” Musk tweeted on May 7, 2022. He was responding to a tweet that noted how Japan’s population had fallen by a record 644,000 to 125.5 million in 2021.

Several Twitter users responded as follows to Elon Musk’s post:

Another Twitter user thinks that young parents should receive government support due to the high cost of living and child care. And another user states that Japan should take in more immigrants to reduce the depopulation rate. However, many blame Japan’s work culture for negatively impacting the birth rate.

But is Elon Musk right, or is his Twitter post too alarmist?!

Why Japan’s population is declining

According to Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the country’s population has decreased for the 11th consecutive year. And deaths have exceeded births by 609,000 while population outflows raise concern, as more people moved out than those moving in.

Undoubtedly, these figures show that there’s indeed a significant downward trend in Japan’s population. But we should bear in mind that declining birth rates are commonplace in advanced economies in Asia and across the globe. Furthermore, the cost of housing plays a crucial role in couples having fewer babies than their forebears.

But Japan does have unique challenges it needs to overcome, such as hikikomori and its toxic work culture.

Hikikomori is a syndrome whereby young adults suffer from alarming social withdrawal, causing them to become recluses and avoid pursuing romantic relationships. And Japanese companies expect workers to work long hours, leaving employees little time for social and family life.

Is Japan’s toxic work culture partly responsible for the country’s low birth rate?

Elon Musk tweets about declining birth rates (again)

But Elon Musk didn’t end the conversation about declining birth rates with Japan. He recently tweeted about the fertility slump in the USA by stating, “USA birth rate has been below min sustainable levels for ~50 years.”

And as expected, Musk’s followers and droves of other Twitter users responded to this pressing topic with controversial and humorous takes. But Pranay Pathole tweeted one of the most insightful and thoughtful posts with an inserted data visualization of the declining global population:

But should anime fans worry about Japan’s predicament?

In a nutshell, Elon Musk is right to raise alarm bells about this matter. But it’s unlikely that Japan will cease to exist, and if it does, much of the developed world will face a similar predicament. So, anime fans needn’t worry that Japan won’t be around in the foreseeable future.

Furthermore, a greying population and its possible ramifications have concerned the Japanese for quite some time.

In 1991, Roujin Z, an award-winning sci-fi anime, introduced viewers to a robotic hospital bed meant to take care of an 87-year-old widower. With its screenplay and story written by Katsuhiro Otomo of Akira fame, Roujin Z’s take on elderly healthcare is both compelling and scary.

And given Japan’s leading role in robotics, such a scenario is plausible. Let’s hope Japan heeds the warning and comes up with workable solutions to avert its demographic issues.

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