Learn more about specific causes in Japan that you can get involved in.
FamilyA major problem facing Japan is the population decline. The birth rate in Japan is 1.4 children per woman, while a rate of 2.1 is needed for population growth. The Washington Post notes that other countries have survived with similarly low birth rates but make up for it with high immigration. Japan does not have this advantage. Almost a third of Japan’s population was older than 65 in 2015.1 One of the factors credited with causing the low birth rates is the inability of mothers to work in the Japanese labor force. Countries with a higher working female population have higher birth rates.2
EducationJapan ranks in the top ten countries for education. There is a high literacy rate and a high enrollment rate. The Ministry of Education recently released a Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education. This plan will increase English language competency among Japanese students and the amount of international students accepted to study in Japan.1 The Japanese school system has been recognized internationally for its emphasis on equality. Education is partially funded by the national government, which helps alleviate the income disparities that might otherwise affect students’ quality of education. The discrepancy in student performance in poorer areas is only 9% due to income, as opposed to the OECD average of 15%. The country has also achieved a 97% high school graduation rate.2
PovertyThe Borgen Project states that one in six people live in relative poverty, including an estimated 3.5 million children. Some of the issues are unemployment and the sporadic employment of those who do have jobs.1 The poverty rate in Japan is 16% and the unemployment rate is 3%.2
Religion80% of Japan’s population practices Shintoism, 67% are Buddhist, and 1.5% are Christian. These percentages exceed 100% because many of the population practice Shintoism and Buddhism.1
Clean Water100% of the population in Japan has access to clean drinking water.1 The biggest problem that Japan faces with its water supply is contamination from nuclear plants. In 2011 in Fukushima, the tsunami crippled the nuclear plant and caused a terrible atomic disaster. The government pledged $500 million to contain nuclear leaks and decontaminate water, which had become radioactive. The leaks have also dumped radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.2
EconomyJapan’s economy is based on close working bonds between manufactures, suppliers, and distributors, as well as the lifetime guarantee of employment for those in the urban labor force. One of the largest concerns Japan is facing economically is its debt, which was 230% of GDP in 2017.1 The main Japanese exports are cars, iron and steel products, and car parts. Imports are petroleum, liquid natural gas, and clothing. The country’s main trade partners are the US, China, South Korea, and Australia.2
GovernmentJapan’s government is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. Japan also has an emperor who serves as a political figurehead and powerful symbol to the Japanese people. Despite their cultural significance, the Imperial Family essentially has no governmental powers and is only symbolic.1 Japan ranks 20th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. The same survey showed that the Japanese public score their government 73 of 100.2
HealthThe leading causes of death in Japan are cancer, heart disease, stroke, and suicide. Life expectancy is 89 years for women and 82 years for men. The maternal mortality rate is 5 deaths for every 100,000 live births, while the infant mortality rate is 2 deaths per 1,000 births. Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world.1 The biggest burden to the healthcare system in Japan is the shrinking, aging population. There are four times as many people over the age of 65 as there were in the 1960s. This is creating a strain on the healthcare system. Furthermore, due to state-imposed quotas, there is a shortage of qualified doctors in Japan.2
ChildrenChildren have a special place of importance within Japanese society. There is an annual holiday celebrating them called Children’s Day.1 Japan is a signatory on many international conventions that promote the protection of children’s rights, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. Japan also ensures that all children are covered with health insurance and that families with a limited income who have small children get an allowance from the government.2
EnvironmentIn the 1990s, Japan revised its environmental law system to increase controls.1 The nuclear accidents Japan has endured have destroyed the safety of many water sources and contaminated food and air. There are communities where parents cannot let their children play outside for fear of radiation poisoning. 2 The country is working to clean up the area that was part of the explosion of a nuclear power plant in the wake of a tsunami in 2011. The radiation is contaminating groundwater which is leaking back into the ocean and creating major health hazards for those exposed to it. The plant is going to be decommissioned but will take 30 to 40 years to be completely shut down.3
Human RightsProblems persist along ethnic lines in Japan. Racial protests have occurred in Tokyo’s Korea Town neighborhood, and racial minorities find it increasingly difficult to secure basic rights. Additionally, Japan continues to reject asylum requests.1 In 2016, 10,901 people applied for asylum and only 28 were approved. The Technical Intern Training Program was created to combat Japan’s labor shortage, and the first of 10,000 workers began to arrive in 2016.2 Recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights addressed the issue of sexual slavery in Japan during World War II and criticized the government for not recognizing the problems that they have caused by not providing redress to the victims.3
AnimalsThe island archipelago that makes up Japan is part of the vulnerable palearctic region. The islands are home to the white-tailed sea eagle, the hazel grouse, and the three-toed woodpecker. There are also red foxes, Yezo brown bears, and Japanese marten. The species are threatened by poaching, road construction, and tourism. There are also issues with habitat loss as forests are cut down to create farmland.1
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