Japan. Growth in the economy, the world's largest after
the US, landed at a moderate 2.6 percent. The focus of
exports was changed so that for the first time in modern
times, China was moving on to the United States as Japan's
largest exporting country.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned in September. His
departure was driven by several political adversities, but
also by deteriorating health. He was hospitalized with the
diagnosis of extreme fatigue immediately after his departure
on September 12, just one year after taking office.
CountryAAH, Abe was more cautious than his predecessor Junichiro
Koizumi in relations with China and Korea. He refrained from
going to the disputed Yasukuni Temple in Tokyo, where
war dead are honored, among them several convicted and
executed war criminals. Koizumi provoked time and time again
the neighboring countries of Japan war with their visits there.
That relations improved was confirmed when China's Prime
Minister Wen Jiabao visited Japan in April. He described the
visit as a "success" and talked about friendship in the
Tokyo Parliament - but also that the war must not be
In March, the Swedish royal couple visited Japan King Carl
Gustaf and Queen Silvia landed shortly after a 6.9
earthquake on the Richter scale that killed nine people,
destroyed 25 houses on the Noto Peninsula 30 miles west of
Tokyo and caused a minor wreck in the world's largest
nuclear power plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. Queen Silvia said
that relations with the Emperor family were "warm" and added
that the Emperor "is delighted" in Sweden. In connection
with the Linnaeus anniversary, the Emperor couple then made
a response visit to Sweden.
Abe did not manage domestic problems as well as foreign
relations. Several ministers in his government made
unfortunate statements or were drawn into economic scandals
that forced them to resign. Health Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa
reduced women to "birth machines", Defense Minister Fumio
Kyuma said the Iraq War was a mistake and Foreign Minister
Taro Aso diluted the fact that the US war in Iraq was a
"very immature operation". The US protested against the
criticism. Kyuma resigned in June.
During the summer, Abe failed to persuade Parliament to
adopt an extension of the Japanese navy's support to US
forces in Afghanistan, which was important as the United
States is Japan's foremost ally. He then declared that he
intended to remain anyway. But the government was also
criticized for neglecting the pension register, where 50
million data on pension rights disappeared. When the
election to Parliament's upper house also became a failure,
Abe resigned. 71-year-old Yasuo Fukuda was elected as
The July 29 election involved half of the seats in the
upper house. The LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) government
received only 37 of the 121 seats. Opposition Japan's
Democratic Party received 60 seats and thus a majority.
Japan was again given a Defense Ministry 60 years after
the capitulation. Previously, the function has been called
the Defense Authority. However, the relatively low military
profile has not prevented Japan's defense spending from being
among the highest in the world; According to the SIPRI Peace
Research Institute, Japan ranks fifth in the world in military
There was drama about Japan's whaling. Japanese vessels set
out to capture 800 whales for "research purposes", despite
international protests. The environmental movements
Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd tried to sabotage the hunt. The
hunt was interrupted, but the Japanese still killed over 500
Relations with North Korea became better after the
hard-line Pyongyang regime finally agreed to shut down its
nuclear facilities in Yongbyon. Japan has been greatly
distressed by North Korea's robotic test shootings.
Japan is worried by high suicide rates and decided in
April to invest properly in better psychiatric care. 30,000
suicides are committed per year - proportionally more than
in other developing countries. The high rate of work should
be dampened. At Volvo in Japan, overtime bans were introduced
once a month, tangible by darkening the workplace to force
employees to go home.
Miss Japan, 20-year-old dance instructor Riyo Mori,
became this year's Miss Universe.
In addition to the ongoing financial crisis, Japan has
problems with its very high government debt (170 per cent of
GDP), and a declining and aging population with fewer
working people. The government has announced that the
retirement age can gradually be raised from 60 to 65 years,
and in the longer term to 70 years. In working life Japan
has traditionally had a system of lifelong employment, but
since the recession of the 1990s this has changed. The
companies use temporary workers and temporary workers to a
greater extent than before. The proportion of temporary
employees increased from 19 per cent in 1990 to 30 per cent
in 2007, so that more Japanese people worked for lower wages
and with a feeling of greater security. At the same time,
young Japanese people seemed far less attuned to life-long
employment, but now changed jobs more frequently.
For the Japanese economy, the "wave of the elderly" is
considered a formidable challenge. In the 1970s, Japan had
the youngest population of all OECD countries, but in 2015
it was estimated that Japan has the world's highest life
expectancy in the age group over 80 years. This can have
major consequences for the social economy and the
consumption pattern. In 2000, in Japan, there were four
working people for each pensioner; By 2020, under the
current system, there will probably be only two working
people per pensioner. The retirement age was successively
increased from 60 to 65 years from 2000 to 2013, in
addition, some pension and welfare benefits were reduced.
Calculations indicate that the low birth rate and rapid
aging will also result in labor shortages.
A current topic of discussion is therefore whether the
world's second largest economy will be able to hold on to
its economic muscles with an increasingly aging population.
In 2007, the State Center for Economic Research attracted a
report on competitive conditions in 2030: Japan's real GDP
is then estimated to be less than half of India's and a
fifth of China's. Furthermore, Japan's population is
projected to decrease by over 25 percent - from 127 million
today to around 94 million in 2050.
Following a steadily declining trend in the number of
children, today only 13 percent of Japan's population is
about 127 million under 15 years. By contrast, the number of
Japanese over 65 has been steadily growing and is up 25.9
percent. Among 31 major countries, Japan today has by far
the lowest percentage of children. By 2020, the proportion
of Japanese under the age of 15 is expected to decline
further to 11 percent, while those aged 65 or older will
make up 29 percent of the population.
Unemployment peaked at 5.5 per cent in 2003, but showed a
declining trend. At year-end 2008/2009 it was about 4 per
cent, but showed a dangerous increase during the crisis. In
July 2009, it had risen to 5.7 percent, the highest since
World War II. At that time, 3.6 million Japanese were
registered as unemployed. At the same time, Japan's
statistical agency could report that many companies are
struggling with large unused capacity and have many
redundant workers employed. At today's production level, the
business sector has 6 million more jobs than production
requires, the highest number ever recorded.
The difference between goods producing and service
industries is significant. In order to face international
competition, the industry underwent a somewhat drastic
restructuring in the 1990s. The service sector was more
sheltered. The result was a service sector that employs 80
per cent of the workforce, but with low productivity.
The British Economist Intelligence Unit came in 2007 and
2009 with reports that ranked Japan as the number one in 82
countries in innovation. Japan invests significantly more in
research and develops 51 percent more patents than the
United States, which ranked fourth. The report predicts that
Japan's share of the world's total GDP will be reduced from
6.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent by 2030. Exports are expected
to be reduced from 4 to 3 per cent of the global total.
Japan was ranked 17th out of 187 countries on the UN
Human Development Index in 2013. The country was ranked 15th
out of 175 countries on the Transparency International
Corruption Index in 2014.