RIETI Report March 2020

The Ideal Industrial Promotion in a (Super-aged) High-Death-Rate Society

It is well established that Japan's population is aging at an unprecedented rate and will lead the world in the progression of aging. This fact presents the government and society at large with a series of significant economic and societal challenges and opportunities that, if surmounted, will represent a significant victory for Japan and may pave the way for most other developed nations that are following in Japan's footsteps. In this column, RIETI senior fellow Kazuhiko Fuji examines the issue of the first "High-Death-Rate Society" and argues for the economic value of compassion in capitalism through specific examples based on promising business initiatives and the benefits of spirituality in end-of-life care.

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The Ideal Industrial Promotion in a (Super-aged) High-Death-Rate Society

FUJI KazuhikoSenior fellow, RIETI

Japan has long been a super-aging society, but it is now moving to the next stage (Note 1). The advent of the first "high-death-rate society" in the history of mankind, in which long and slow death occurs more often than sudden death, has arrived. In 2018, the number of deaths in Japan was 1.36 million (the number of births was 920,000). Looking at the number of deaths by age, 90% of those who die are elderly. It is predicted that this rate will reach 95% in 30 years. In Japan, people are unaware of this increase in the death rate, as death is considered a taboo topic in society. However, its societal effects are gradually beginning to appear.

The importance of end-of-life care, such as nursing care, is increasing with the advent of a high-death-rate society. However, the value of end-of-life care in the market remains low, as death is considered a taboo topic in postwar Japan. Although the source of growth in developed economies is the advent of new goods and services (innovations) that draw out potential demand, innovation is easier said than done. However, if society's perception of death changes, end-of-life care may become one of Japan's growing industries as we move forward.

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