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Economy

Japan's population drops to 126m in 2020 census, down 0.7% vs. 2015

Results highlight economic strain of shrinking workforce and more elderly

The national census is conducted once every five years to survey the status of all people and households in Japan

TOKYO -- Japan's total population, including foreign nationals, was 126.14 million as of Oct. 1, 2020, according to final figures from the 2020 census released by the Ministry of Communications and Internal Affairs on Nov. 30.

That is 0.7% or nearly 949,000 people less than in the 2015 survey, and the second consecutive drop in national census figures.

The working-age population -- people between the ages of 15 and 64 -- fell 3% to 75.08 million, a decline of 2.26 million from 2015. The number of children aged 14 or younger fell 6 % to 15.03 million. The number of those aged 65 or older, on the other hand, rose 7% to 36.02 million, underscoring the country's falling birthrate and aging population.

If unchanged, these demographic trends will weigh on economic growth. The economy will need to shift from one that relies on an expanding labor force to focusing on improvements in quality, and greater efforts will be needed to lift society's overall productivity.

The national census is conducted once every five years to survey the status of all people and households in Japan, including foreign nationals, as of Oct. 1. Questionnaires are distributed to each household, asking about members' gender, date of birth, employment status and other matters.

The 2020 census was a "large-scale survey" conducted once every 10 years. These contain more questions on a wider range topics, such as household members' educational background. The census was conducted during the COVID pandemic, so online responses were also accepted.

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