‘Groundwork needed to stem population decline’
Former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Hiroya Masuda has long grappled with various issues arising from a continued decline in the nation’s population. In an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, Masuda said now is the time for the government to lay the foundation for a long-term fight against Japan’s low birthrate. The following is an excerpt from the interview.
The Yomiuri Shimbun: In May, the Japan Policy Council, a private-sector expert panel that you chair, released its estimates on the population decline. By the end of 2040, the number of women aged 20 to 39 will likely decrease by more than 50 percent in 896 cities, wards, towns and villages nationwide, or about half of the total municipalities, according to the projection. The council said about half of these municipalities could be wiped off the map.
Masuda: Population decline has been a concern of mine since my days as the governor of Iwate (1995-2007). During that time, enormous progress was made in integrating and closing down primary schools in the prefecture. But the process was accompanied by severe negative effects. This was evident in, for example, the difficulty in maintaining local communities that some areas experienced [due to the loss of primary schools].
However, [the consolidation] had to be carried out to accommodate a progressive decline in the number of children. The situation caused me to face a question: What will become of my prefecture in 20 years?
Even before the release of the panel’s estimates, many city, town and village mayors were more or less aware that the population was bound to decrease.