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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. 27, 2023

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 (28.4%) *2.

1) Longevity

In 2019, Japan had a population of approximately 126 million, of which 28.4% were aged 65 or older. The average life expectancy was 81 years for men and 87 years for women*2. In contrast, the “Healthy Life Expectancy” (2016) is 72 years for men and 74 years for women*3, representing a difference of nine years for men and 13 years for women.

2) Low Birthrate*4

The birthrate in 2021 was 1.30, with 811,000 births. The first “baby boom” in the late 1940s (around 73~75 years old today) recorded approximately 2.7 million births, and the second baby boom in the early 1970s (around 48~50 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 44.2 trillion Yen (315 billion EURO) in 2022*5, or an average of 350,000 Yen (2,500 EURO) per person (Conversion Rate: 1 Euro = 140 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 9.4 million*6 people with disabilities in Japan (including those with multiple disabilities), accounting for about 7.6% of the total population.

  • Physical disabilities: 4.3 million*6
  • Intellectual disabilities: 1 million*6
  • Mental disabilities: 3.9 million*6
  • Only about 25.3% of adults with disabilities play sports at least once a week*6


2) Gender Equality

In the 2022 Gender Gap Index (GGI), Japan ranked 116th in the world, 37th out of 38 OECD member countries and 17th out of G20 countries and regions. *7

The proportion of female directors in National Governing Bodies of sport in Japan was 15.5%, and nine out of 78 organisations (11.5%) responded that they did not have any female directors. *8

3) Foreign Labor

In 2022, there were 2.9 million*9 foreign residents in Japan (2.3% of the total Japanese population) and 1.8 million*10 registered foreign workers (2.7% 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 below listed facts 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: 9.6 million people*12
  • Population density: 15,411 people per sq. km

In terms of economic concentration more than 2,000 (over 50%) of the 3,800 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.


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

*2 SSF White Paper on Sport in 2020 (JPN, Page 70)

*3 Experts meeting report on healthy life expectancy”, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japanese Government (2019, Page 31)

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

*5 Trends of medical costs FY 2021, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japanese Government (2022, Page 2)

*6 SSF White Paper on Sport in 2020 (JPN, Page 132)

*7 Gender Gap Index, World Economic Forum

*8 SSF Research on Governance of National Governing Body 2020

*9 Foreign Residents in Japan, Immigration Services Agency of Japan (2022)

*10 Foreign Workers in Japan, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japanese Government (2022)

*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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