Japan’s population currently is not only shrinking, but it is also one of the fastest aging populations in the world. At the same time, it has one of the highest life expectancies. The cohort of people aged 65 years and older consisted of more than 36 million people in 2020 and was estimated to make up close to 38 percent of the population by 2050. As a consequence of the country’s demographic changes, the Japanese economy today faces severe labor shortages, as is exemplified by a very low unemployment rate. Until recently, the workforce in Japan was shrinking rapidly, putting pressure on the social security system. But continued employment of the elderly and especially the growing integration of women into the labor market have kept the labor force relatively stable and even led to a slight increase in the recent years.
The population in Japan appears largely homogenous compared to many other countries around the world. Yamato people, a term used since the 19th century for the ethnic group native to the Japanese archipelago to distinguish them from minority groups, such as Ainu, Ryukyuans, or Koreans and Taiwanese who had settled at peripheral areas of Japan, make up the overwhelming majority of the population. However, the number of foreign residents living in Japan has been increasing. Since this group consists for the largest part of younger people, it has also a positive effect on the size of the workforce.
The population density in Japan amounted to about 347 people per square kilometer as of 2018, remaining one of the highest in Asia. The population is highly concentrated in metropolitan areas, most notably Tokyo, which is one of the world’s most populated cities, as well as Osaka and Nagoya. While many rural areas face depopulation tendencies, land prices in the three large metropolitan areas have been increasing again since the mid-2010s.