OPG hopes to increase the population of Okinawa

OPG hopes to increase the population of Okinawa

Population projections for Okinawa Prefecture

January 1, 2013 Yoko Shima of the Ryukyu Shimpo

The Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) is putting together an Okinawa population growth plan for fiscal year 2013. It estimates that the population of the prefecture will peak in 2025, before then starting to decline. The OPG wants to avert this trend, and to increase the population that is the lifeblood of Okinawa. It hopes to use subsidies from the central government to increase the population of 1.4 million to 1.5 million people, implementing a range of measures, including parenting support to increase the number of births, encouraging population transfer such as U-turn and preventing population spills from remote islands and depopulated areas. They are considering adding this project to the Okinawa Vision for the 21st Century, a new promotion plan for the prefecture.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima said, “Region where the population decreases will rapidly fall behind. It is important for the promotion of Okinawa that we will strive to take measures not only to prevent population decrease, but also continue to increase our population.” He suggested that as model areas, they would take measures on remote islands such as Kumejima where the population has decreased.

In other prefectures, there are many cases where local governments are working independently to get people to return and implementing measures to counter the falling birthrate. However, the comprehensive approach towards population growth that the OPG is carrying out will be an exceptional case.

Some experts claim that Japan’s population began to decline from 2005. As of October 2011 the total population of Japan was 127.79 million. It is estimated to fall below 100 million people in around the year 2050, and 40 percent of the population will be 65 years old or older in around 2060. In a survey conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications in 2011, population decline was studied in 40 prefectures. Okinawa had the highest rate of increase among the seven prefectures that displayed population increases, an increase of 0.59 percent over the previous year. However, due to its decline in the birth rate, the population of Okinawa also will begin to decline once it has peaked at 1.44 million. The working-age population of 15-64 years, which have higher employment rates, will decrease beyond 2015. The decrease in the number of workers will see a decrease in the gross prefectural domestic product and per capita gross prefectural income.

If we see the population as 100 in 1975, while the populations in the southern districts of the main island of Okinawa and Yaeyama have grown, those in Miyako, the Kerama Islands, and Kume-jima have decreased. The OPG is developing a plan focusing on the following five pillars: creating an easy environment in which to give birth to and raise children, longevity health measures, U-, I- and J-turn promotion projects, depopulation measures in remote islands and increasing the number of inbound tourists.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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