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May 06, 2009

Declining birth rate poses serious problems for schools

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A new report by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications estimates that the number of Japanese children under 15 is 17.14 million which is a record low. Japan's population as a whole had its largest ever decline last year. Children under 15 make up 13.4 per cent of the population while those aged 65 or older make up 22.5 per cent.

These figures mean that the percentage of children in Japan is now the lowest among all countries that have a population of over 30 million people. Until this year the percentages in Germany and Italy were lower. By prefecture, Akita has the lowest percentage of children and Tokyo the second lowest. Okinawa has the highest.

It is clear that the continuing decline in the birth rate will put increasing pressure on schools of all kinds to close or merge and is also likely to have a negative effect on the working conditions and job security of teachers. Many English schools have been spared the full impact of the declining population because of the increasing awareness of the need for English, but whether this will continue or not is an open question.

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