The Japanese flag flies over the island during the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo JIma on Iwo Jima, Japan on Saturday March 12, 2005InternationalIndiaAfricaAn earlier report analyzing Japan’s stalled population growth determined that by 2060, the number of citizens was projected to plummet to some 86.7 million from over 125 million. Officials have warned the next few years could prove pivotal in improving the nation’s declining figures.Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications issued a report on Monday confirming an aging population as an ongoing concern in the world’s third-largest economy.The report, released as Japan celebrates its Respect for the Aged Day, placed the number of people in Japan over 80 at nearly 12.6 million among a population of 124 million. Meanwhile, the number of people over 65, which the country defines as “elderly,” reached more than 36 million.“Japan has the highest percentage of elderly population in the world,” the ministry noted, acknowledging the challenges an aging citizenry poses to the country, including “declining birth rates… depopulation, financial deficits, and various other problems.”Perhaps chief among the issues raised is the imperative to maintain a workforce sufficient to support the country’s various social programs. Pension obligations, health care, and other services demand more funding as Japan’s population ages, but a graying society means fewer people are able to generate income and pay taxes.Japan has struggled to maintain economic growth after once being expected to win the title of the world’s largest economy in the 1980s. The government has responded by urging mothers and the elderly to re-enter the workforce. Now, a quarter of all elderly people in Japan are employed, compared to 18.6% in the United States.AsiaJapan Birth Rates Lowest in History as Abe Promises Expanded Support23 December 2018, 22:26 GMTBut the measure is expected to only temporarily alleviate the problem, compounded by the famously conservative country’s reluctance to encourage immigration. Japan’s fertility rate of 1.3 remains far below the approximate rate of 2.1 deemed necessary to stabilize the population.Meanwhile deaths have outpaced births for more than a decade, a trend which seems likely to continue. Japan is “on the brink of not being able to maintain social functions,” warned Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in January.South Korea is eventually expected to surpass Japan as the most elderly nation in the decades to come as an aging population remains a concern in various Asian countries, as well as much of the Global North.Japanese companies have countered the crisis by investing in technological innovation, with automaker Toyota making efforts to increase efficiency in electronic vehicle manufacturing. A more playful response to the country’s demographic challenges has emerged in the phenomenon of “dementia cafes” staffed by elderly employees.