Image From: Wikipedia
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may be the face of the new government led by Liberal Democratic Party, but Finance Minister Taro Aso is also a force to be reckoned with.
In fact, only a few politicians today can claim to have more power, experience or flair than the 72-year-old.
72-year-old he may be but he seems to have no mercy for his elderly countrymen.
Not new to controversies, Aso left behind a deafening buzz when he said that people should give elderly people the freedom to “hurry up and die” instead of allowing the government to take care of the costs for their end-of-life medical care.
Japan is the world's third largest economy but it is also growing older faster than any other country in the world.
Nearly a quarter of its population of about 127 million is above the age of 65, and by 2060 the elderly could make up as much as 40 percent of the total.
The aging of Japan is thought to outweigh all other nations, as the country is purported to have the highest proportion of elderly citizens; more than 20% are over the age of 65 today. The age 65 and above demographic group increased from 26.5 million in 2006 to 29.47 million in 2011, a 11.2% increase.
There have been problems no doubt, such a large number of elderly people do become a strain on the economy. Spending over 20 or more years post retirement can be quite a struggle for the elderly, their families as well as the society. Jobs and earning a living becomes an issue-especially for women, whose access to jobs and health care is often limited throughout their lives, along with their rights to own and inherit property.
The number of criminals aged 65 or older has drastically increased in recent years. Most elderly crimes were shoplifting or theft, but violent crimes have also been reported.
Not only there is a large number of elderly, but the tradition of looking after them and joint families is becoming fast extinct.
But it shouldn’t be all that gloomy. The country's elderly have in recent years emerged as big spenders. According to government data, households headed by those aged 60 or above accounted for more than 40 percent of total consumption in 2011, up from around 30 percent in 2000.
Their spending is vital in creating jobs for younger people. It also creates opportunities for companies that are looking to take advantage of this market.
In addition to their spending power, the elderly in Japan can also be leveraged for their work experience. This is critical for the economy, as Japan's working age population is shrinking. The Japanese workforce, those ages 15-64, will almost halve by 2060, according to Japan's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
Having the world's highest percentage of older people is creating unique challenges for Japan, but according to a report by the United Nations Population Fund they will not be unique for long.
By 2050 more than 60 other countries, from China to Canada to Albania, will be in the same boat.
The report urged governments to summon the political will to protect the elderly and ensure they can age with good health and dignity.
Apparently Aso does not agree.