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Japan’s Data + Sports

Starter Pack: Social Issues in Japan – for a better understanding of the current situation in Japan

Apr. 24, 2024

Understanding social issues is the first step toward obtaining a broader vision of “sport in Japan” from SSF articles. Three major issues and related topics that Sasakawa Sports Foundation culled are briefly explained in this article: 1) Hyper-Aging Society, 2) Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) and 3) Regional Revitalization.

It is obvious that every country is facing its own distinct social issues. It is impossible to compare or utilize the concepts behind new projects or policies/legislation without basic knowledge of a specific country. Based on this idea, we would like to share this starter pack of basic facts / knowledge of Japan, which provides an overview of social issues that we are facing in Japan.

Social Issues

A) Hyper-Aging Society

According to data from the United Nation’s World Population Prospects, by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over age 65 (16%), up from one in 10 in 2022 (10%) *1. On the other hand, one in 3.5 people in Japan are already over 65 (28.6%) as of Jan. 2023. *2.

1) Longevity

In 2023, Japan had a population of approximately 125 million, of which 28.6% were aged 65 or older. The average life expectancy was 81 years for men and 87 years for women*2-1. In contrast, the “Healthy Life Expectancy” (2019) is 73 years for men and 75 years for women*3, representing a difference of eight years for men and 12 years for women.

2) Low Birthrate*4

The birthrate in 2022 was 1.26, with 770,759 births. The first “baby boom” in the late 1940s (around 74~76 years old today) recorded approximately 2.7 million births, and the second baby boom in the early 1970s (around 49~51 years old today) also saw in excess of 2 million births. This number has been declining year by year.

3) Escalation of Medical Care Expenditures

Japan has a "universal health care system" and all citizens are covered by some form of public insurance. Basically, residents under the age of 70 pay only 30% of their own medical costs at hospitals. In contrast, national medical care expenditures totaled about 46 trillion Yen (279 billion EURO) in 2022*5, or an average of 368,000 Yen (2,230 EURO) per person (Conversion Rate: 1 Euro = 165 JPY).

B) Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I)

There is no doubt that the concept of “DE&I” has been promoted globally recently. What type of “DE&I” is mainly discussed in Japan? While this article cannot cover all topics, it provides some insights.

1) Persons with Disabilities

There are approximately 11.6 million*6 people with disabilities in Japan (including those with multiple disabilities), accounting for about 9.3 % of the total population.
Physical disabilities: 4.3 million*6
Intellectual disabilities: 1.1 million*6
Mental disabilities: 6.2 million*6
Only about 31.1 % of adults with disabilities play sports at least once a week.*6-1

2) Gender Equality

In the 2023 Gender Gap Index (GGI), Japan ranked 125th in the world, 37th out of 38 OECD member countries and 15th out of G20 countries and regions.*7
The proportion of female directors in National Governing Bodies of sport in Japan was 23.8%, and three out of 77 organisations (3.9%) responded that they did not have any female directors.*8

3) Foreign Labor

In 2023, there were 3.2 million*9 foreign residents in Japan (2.6% of the total Japanese population) and 2 million*10 registered foreign workers (3% of the working population*11), with the number increasing every year.

C) Regional Revitalization

Described positively, “Regional Revitalization” is key to the continuity of Japan. What challenges are we facing? The facts listed below provide some insight.

1) Tokyo Centralization

General Information on Tokyo:
Area: 2,200 sq. km (0.5% of Japan’s total) *12
Population: 14 million (11% of Japan's total) *12
Daytime population: 16.4 million*13
Tokyo’s 23 special wards only: 9.7 million people*12
Population density: 15,411 people per sq. km
In terms of economic concentration, more than 2,000 (over 50%) of the 3,940 companies listed in Japan are headquartered in Tokyo.*14

2) Rural Population Decline

Looking at the population inflow from rural regions to Tokyo, the main age group, especially 18-19-year-olds and people in their 20s, are leaving for Tokyo to go on to university and find work. Lack of good employment opportunities, social infrastructure, entertainment, education, and nurturing environments are also possible factors for the continuous decline.

The way forward

This article presents merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the social issues in Japan. However, as Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world”, and SSF believes that the “power of sports” can contribute to resolving these issues in partnership with all stakeholders.

(Released:Apr.27,2023  Updated:Apr.24,2024)


*1 World Population Prospects 2022: Summary of Results (Page 2)

*2 Demographics and household numbers based on Basic Resident Register (Page 48)

*2-1 Abridged Life Tables for Japan 2022 -. Life expectancies at specified ages

*3 White Paper on Aging Society 2022 Chapter 2, Cabinet Office

*4 Overview of Vital Statistics in Japan, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japanese Government (2022, Page 5)

*5 Trends of medical costs FY 2022, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japanese Government (Page 2)

*6White Paper on Health and Welfare for Persons with Disabilities 2023 (Page 3)

*6-1 White Paper on Sports in Japan 2023 (Page 53)

*7 Gender Gap Index, World Economic Forum (Page 11)

*8 SSF Research on Governance of National Governing Body 2022 https://www.ssf.or.jp/thinktank/governance/2022_nfr.html

*9 Foreign Residents in Japan, Immigration Services Agency of Japan (2023)

*10 Foreign Workers in Japan, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japanese Government (2023)

*11 Calculated based on Labor Force Survey, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japanese Government (2023, Page 1)

*12 General Information on Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Government

*13 Expectations for daytime population in Tokyo, Statics of Tokyo

*14 Number of listed companies, Japan Exchange Group

Application for information use

Upon request, we will provide raw data (including cross-tabulation results, text in Japanese only) from every National Sports-Life Survey taken to date. Interested parties should contact the SSF through the link below.


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