Japanese minister apologises for comment on Japan's shrinking population
smh.com.au -- Feb 06
Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso has reluctantly apologised for saying childless people are to blame for the country's rising social security costs and its aging and declining population.

"If it made some people feel uncomfortable, I apologise," Aso said on Tuesday after drawing complaints over a comment he made during the weekend at a seminar in Fukuoka, his constituency in southwestern Japan.

The gaffe-prone Aso, a 78-year-old former prime minister, is among conservative politicians in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government who have at times blamed the elderly or childless for long-term demographic trends.

"There are lots of strange people who say the elderly people are to blame, but that is wrong. The problem is those who don't have children," he told the audience.

The comment was nearly the same as one he made in 2014 that also drew criticism. Others have made similar comments that many found offensive. In 2007, former health minister Hakuo Yamagisawa called women "birth-giving machines". In 2017, another senior ruling party politician, Akiko Santo, said the government should consider awarding women who produced four or more children.

According to the latest government statistics, the number of births in 2018 fell to 921,000, the lowest since Japan began recording such statistics in 1899. Japan's total population fell by 448,000 people, a record decline, to 126 million. It is forecast to fall below 100 million by 2050, barring a huge influx of immigrants.

As of 2017, Japanese women on average gave birth to 1.43 children during their lifetimes. That compares with nearly 1.8 in the US and Britain.

News source: smh.com.au
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