In the beginning of the 21st century, Japan has been the most aging country in the world. The two major factors of population aging are fewer birth (a decline in fertility rate) and longer life (an increase in life expectancy).
I would like to look back how they have proceeded in Japanese society.
Changes in an Aging Society
Longer Life, Fewer Births and Social Trends in Japan
-From the End of World War II to the End of the 20th Century-
It was 1945, the end of World War II. No statistical data are available for this period. According to Dr. Yoichi Okazaki’s estimates based on his research, the birth rate then was about 23 permillage, and the death rate was about 29 permillage. The vital statistics showed a negative natural growth rate for the first time since the Meiji period (the end of the 19th century) , which would prove that wars could destroy development of human societies.
Maternal and Child Health Handbook, Eugenic and Maternal Protection Law
In 1946, when the society was still in chaos, a national election was held under GHQ’s control. It was the first time for women to participate in politics, and 39 women were elected, including Ms. Shizue Kato. Sen. Kato and Sen. Tenrei Ota (OG Dr.) were the major contributors of the enactment of Eugenic and Maternal Protection Law, which started in 1948. This law allows abortion for the purpose of protecting mothers’ health.*
* Eugenic and Maternal Protection Law was revised later so that it would allow abortions for financial reasons and with agreement by both parents.
Maternal and Child Health Handbook was also created in January 1948 before the Eugenic Maternal Protection Law started. Thanks to the MCH handbook, local municipalities and public health centers nationwide started comprehensive public health programs for pregnant women, infants, children, and mothers. The MCH handbook not only decreased infant mortality rates dramatically but also disseminated information on maternal health, child care, and family planning. When Japan accomplished social and economic development, developing countries tried to learn from Japanese experiences. The MCH handbook attracted a lot of attention from these countries, and it has been translated into various languages and used in numerous countries. Afghanistan seems to be currently working on developing a similar program. Dr. Mitsuo Segi, the first director of Maternal Health Department at Ministry of Health and Welfare, played a major role in developing and implementing the MCH handbook. Dr. Segi resigned this position because he did not get along with GHQ. He later worked at Statistics and Research Department and taught at Tohoku University. After the retirement, he did research on cancer and regional characteristics of related causes of deaths in Nagoya, and he gave warm and kind welcome to visitors from developing countries.