Japan’s workforce will shrink by almost 13m people in the next twenty years without urgent action to increase the number of working women and older workers, according to figures that lay bare the demographic challenge for business.
According to new projections by the country’s health ministry, the Japanese workforce will drop from 65.3m in 2017 to 52.5m in 2040, a fall of 22 per cent. The ministry has not produced such long-range forecasts before.
The figures highlight the huge expansion in productivity — or large-scale immigration — Japan will need if it is to sustain its output. Employment in industries such as agriculture and construction is expected to halve.
① halve [hɑːv] v. （使）减半；把…对半分
例句：Halve the pineapple and scoop out the inside.
“Looking at the future population structure, a long-term decline in the workforce is unavoidable,” said the health ministry’s commission on workforce research, which is made up of external experts. “Given that, for our country to achieve a real economic growth rate of 2 per cent the participation of women and older people in the workforce is essential.”
Prime minister Shinzo Abe has made a push for more women to enter the workforce under his so-called womenomics policy. He has vowed to make social security reform, partly aimed at making it easier for older people to work, a priority for his remaining years in office.
Decades of low birth rates have left Japan with one of the world’s oldest and fastest ageing populations. The overall population is expected to fall from 126.7m in 2017 to around 110m by 2040.
Under a more optimistic “economic growth and participation” scenario, the health ministry projected the workforce decline could be held to 5.1m people, or less than 10 per cent.
② scenario [səˈnɑːrioʊ] n. 方案；前景；(可能发生的)情况；脚本
例句：From a macroeconomic perspective, investors seem to be betting on the worst case scenario.
However, achieving that target would require Japan to reach Scandinavian levels of female participation in the labour force, as well as increasing the number of workers aged 60-plus by almost 5m.
Dire workforce projections will add to business pressure for higher levels of immigration in order to tackle Japan’s increasingly severe labour shortages. The latest projections do not take account of new immigration rules, coming into effect on April 1, which will make it easier for guest workers to enter the country.
③ dire [ˈdaɪə(r)] adj. 极其严重的；危急的；极糟的；极差的
例句：A government split would have dire consequences for domestic peace.
The population of foreign workers has soared in recent years — up 18 per cent in 2017 alone to 1.28m — but most are students or so-called technical interns. The new rules create work visas in industries where there are labour shortages, although there are tough Japanese language requirements.
Certain sectors will bear the brunt of workforce decline, with employment in agriculture expected to fall from 2.2m in 2017 to just 1m in 2040. Recent free trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which lower Japan’s tariffs on food, are expected to accelerate the decline of small-scale farming.
④ tariff [ˈtærɪf] n. 关税；收费表；量刑标准 v. 征收关税；定税率；定收费标准
例句：Reducing tariffs was an important means of injecting competition into the market.
Manufacturing employment is expected to fall from 10.1m to 8m in the base-case scenario, highlighting the challenge to Japan’s industrial competitiveness. In the more optimistic scenario it will roughly hold steady.