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Emerging Asia should learn from Japan's demographic experience

High-growth era has left demographic problems Tokyo has not handled well

| Japan
The longer countries procrastinate, the bigger the challenge becomes.   © Reuters

Countries in Asia which have industrialized are often described as "flying geese," taking off around the region like the birds -- in waves. It started in Japan, with its average growth of 10% between the mid-1950s and early 1970s, before spreading to the Four Dragons -- Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. The South East Asian countries followed, then China -- last and certainly not least.

Such economic success, however, has carried with it intractable demographic challenges -- a low birthrate and rapid aging. The cost of raising children grew, medical services improved and social security provided a safety net, leading people to want fewer offspring. Again, Japan has led the way -- and there are lessons here for the rest of the geese.

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