The Declining Birthrate and the Aging Population in the East Asian Region: from the 13th Conference on the Aging Population in East Asia Region

The Declining Birthrate and the Aging Population in the East Asian Region: from the 13th Conference on the Aging Population in East Asia Region

Mari Tsuruwaka
Advanced Research Center for Human Sciences, Waseda University

The 13th Conference on the Aging Population in East Asia Region was held for two days, October 9 th -10th, 2006, in Seoul and Daegu, Korea. Experts from Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan assembled to present reports on the present state of the declining birthrate and the aging population, including the daily lifestyle of the elderly in the respective regions.

The data presented by experts from each region on the declining birthrate and the aging population are given in Tables 1 to 4.
Table 1 show that the ratio of the elderly aged 65 and over accounted for over 20 % of the total population in Japan. In other regions as well, there is a rapid progress of the aging society, following the case of Japan. In China, Shanghai shows a particularly high ratio of 14.97 % (2005), already entering the stage of an aged society. Table 3 gives an estimation of the future population of the elderly aged 65 and over in each region. In 2005, the ratio of the elderly aged 65 and over was 20.1 % in Japan, 9.1 % in Korea, 9.7% in Taiwan, and 7.6 % in China. The estimation for the year 2050, shows that the ratios will be 38.9 % in Japan, 37.3 % in Korea, 36.7% in Taiwan, and 23.6 % (according to the estimate of the U.N.) in China. Particularly, the ratios of the elderly aged 65 and over in Korea and Taiwan are expected to progress at an amazing speed to surpass the ratio of Japan.

The extension of the average life expectancy associated with the low mortality rate and the declining birthrate may be accounted as factors for a further aging population. Table 2 shows total fertility rate(TFR)which is 1.25 in Japan, 1.08 in Korea, and 1.12 in Taiwan.
Recently, a further decline in the birthrate is more evident in Korea and Taiwan than Japan. In regard to the average life expectancy given in Table 4, the figures for Japan and Shanghai show a slight decrease in the year 2005. It has been indicated that it may be due to the effect of the influenza that spread widely over the regions at the time.

At the present Conference of the experts, it was revealed that the trend of the declining birthrate and aging population in the East Asian region will be further accelerated, following the footsteps of Japan which has already entered a severe aged society. The lifestyle and the way of thinking of the elderly in the various regions are largely influenced by the active daily life, culture, customs of East Asia, with a common ground in the relationship with the family and grandchildren and a life worth living. With a focus on the Asian region, undergoing remarkable development and changes, further comparative research that may contribute to the coexistence and further development of the region will be desirable. The research may be carried out in various fields, including nursing care services, life worth living, participation in community activities, and the advocacy of the rights of the elderly in the respective regions.

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