Japan’s deputy prime minister, Taro Aso, has issued a public apology for comments in which he suggested that women were “at fault” for the country’s declining population. Speaking at constituency meeting in Fukuoka, Aso said that he was tired of “the elderly” being blamed for economic problems posed by the country’s low birthrate and aging population.
“There are lots of weird people who say the elderly are at fault, but that’s incorrect,” said Aso. “Rather, those who aren’t giving birth to children are the problem.”
Japan’s population declined by 448,000 in 2018 as the country saw only 921,000 total births — the lowest such birth tally in the country’s recorded history. This disparity, combined with the country’s high life expectancy, has precipitated a demographic crisis in which people above age 60 make up a third of the country’s population — posing a serious economic challenge as a narrowing base of young people are forced to provide and care for their many older relatives. Concern about this problem has long been on Aso’s mind — in 2013, he went so far as to suggest older people “hurry up and die” to help resolve the issue.
In wake of criticism over his recent remarks, the 78-year-old politician suggested that his words had been misinterpreted but that he’d “like to withdraw my comments and will be careful with my words in the days ahead.”
In recent years, the Japanese government has been more inclined to shift blame for the demographic crisis from the elderly to unmarried women who they claim are being “selfish” by not having children. In 2015, former chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga declared that women need to “contribute to their country by feeling like they want to have more children.” Last year, Liberal Democratic Party politician Kanji Kato declared that women should have “at least three children,” and that unmarried women were a burden on society since “they’ll end up in a care home paid for with the taxes of other people’s children.”
Read the full story at The Guardian.