Japan is facing a crisis. The population is aging and by 2050, one in three people will be past retirement age. Meanwhile, the birth rate is currently at 1.25 babies per woman, much lower than the 2.1 needed to keep the population stable.
The result is a workforce too small to support the huge number of retirees. Who will do all the work? Will there be enough tax money to pay for pensions? What about the cost of health care?
How to solve Japan’s aging population problem
Plan A would be to increase the number of workers, and you could do that by:
1. Having more babies
Some companies are offering financial incentives to their employees to have more children. The government is also supposed to give a little financial support to parents, although I haven’t yet seen any evidence of this. Will this solve the problem? Not likely.
2. Upping the age of retirement
This might have already been put into action, and I’m sure everyone is thrilled about it (sarcasm). Still, adding an extra five years of labor and taxes to one’s life doesn’t look being the magic bullet.
3. Increasing the number of foreign workers
Easing immigration laws to allow hundreds of thousands of foreigners to live, work and apparently terrorize the natives is not likely to happen. I think most Japanese would rather forfeit their pensions or have robots do the work instead.
An alternative solution – decrease the number of elderly people!
I’m not suggesting genocide or anything quite that evil, but it’s interesting to consider ways the government could reduce the burden of an aging population without people suspecting a thing!
According to my students, a hundred years ago, elderly parents would ask their children to take them into the mountains and leave them there. While this is shocking to hear nowadays, it was considered honorable in the past. We can’t expect and wouldn’t wish to hear such a request from our current generation of pensioners, although putting them in a nursing home might be considered the modern equivalent!
Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting the following is a good idea. I’m just putting it forward as something the government might consider, and don’t give me that “They wouldn’t do that!” argument because that’s just opinion, not fact.
Plan B: If you wanted to secretly reduce the lifespan of millions of people in a few short years, the best way to do it would be to hit them in the wallet. If people don’t have enough money, they can’t take care of themselves. Necessities such as medicine, food, accomodation, heating, transportation, etc. could all be subject to price increases.
Before you know it, thousands of people aren’t making it through the winter. A few tax increases here and there and the threat of pension reductions because of the shrinking workforce will have the elderly population in a state of panic. As a final measure, scare them to death with news stories of crime against defenseless pensioners.
So what do you think? If Japan can’t manufacture babies, and robots won’t pay tax, is Plan B a likely alternative? Let me know in the comments.
Perhaps there really isn’t a pension problem after all!
To end on a lighter note, one of my students suggested that inheritance tax would cover everybody’s pension because there would be so much of it! Let’s hope he’s right, because that’s much easier to stomach than my alternative solution!