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Japan's shrinking labor pool sharpens quest for productivity

Automation a growing priority as working-age population shrinks 14% in 25 years

Electronics retailer Nojima scrapped its age ceiling for employees in October.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan's working-age population sank to just over 75 million last year, down 13.9% from the 1995 peak, underscoring an urgent need for productivity growth to keep the economy expanding as the labor pool dwindles.

The country had fewer people ages 15-64 last year than in 1975, according to twice-a-decade census data released Friday. This group made up less than 60% of the population for the first time since 1950, coming in at only 59.5%.

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