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May 30, 2017

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Japan should stabilize population drop at 100 million people: panel

TOKYO--Japan should stabilize its population at about 100 million people, stemming an expected dramatic fall over the next 50 years in the rapidly graying country, a panel proposed Tuesday.

If the plan is adopted by the government, it would be the first numerical population target in the country.

The current population of 127 million is projected to fall to about 87 million in 2060 because of a far-below replacement fertility rate and the almost complete absence of immigration.

That would have potentially huge knock-on effects on the size and vibrancy of the economy, and will heap ever-increasing pressure on a shrinking workforce to provide care for a proportionately larger group of pensioners.

In its interim report, released Tuesday, a government panel proposed Japan should take measures to halt the population slide so that it goes no lower than 100 million people.

The panel estimated that if Japan's total fertility rate — the average number of children born to a woman — recovers to 2.07 in 2030 from the current 1.41 in 2012 and stays at that level, the country's population will be about 100 million in 2060.

In its report, the panel called on the government to double its support for parents to make childcare easier, while encouraging senior citizens to work longer to help offset the cost of their old age.

The panel also suggested Japan accept more foreign skilled workers to boost the labor force. Previous such suggestions have fallen on deaf ears in a country that views immigration with suspicion.

Economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari said the government plans to reflect the proposals in its guidelines on economic and fiscal policies to be released in June.

"We hope the government will share our sense of crisis," Akio Mimura, the panel's head and chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said at a panel meeting, a Cabinet Office official told AFP.

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