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Foreigners are shoring up Japan's shrinking population

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While the latest data shows that the number of Japanese shrank by a record in 2016, the demographic picture isn't quite so bleak when you include the growing ranks of foreigners.

[TOKYO] While the latest data shows that the number of Japanese shrank by a record in 2016, the demographic picture isn't quite so bleak when you include the growing ranks of foreigners.

There are now 2.3 million foreigners resident in Japan. And their numbers grew by almost 150,000 last year, halving the decline in number of people living in the nation.

The biggest population of foreigners, known universally in Japan as "gaijin", was in Tokyo. The 486,346 foreign residents in the capital now account for 4 per cent of its population, up from 3 per cent in 2013.

The smallest number of foreigners is in northern Akita, famous for rice and snow. Only 3,637 foreigners, comprising just 0.35 per cent of the population, were living there as of Jan 1.

And while Japan is one of the most aged societies in the world, that's not true of non-Japanese living in the country. Ninety-three per cent of them are under 65, compared to only 73 per cent of Japanese.

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However, unless there's a massive expansion of immigration or a change in birthrates, even increases in foreign residents at the current level won't be enough to stop or reverse the demographic decline.

 BLOOMBERG

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