Photo/IllutrationKane Tanaka, age 115, discloses secrets behind her longevity during a meeting with Fukuoka Mayor Soichiro Takashima in Fukuoka on Sept. 14. (Toshihiro Kashiwagi)

  • Photo/Illustraion

The number of people aged 70 or older in Japan stood at an estimated 26.18 million, or 20.7 percent of the total population, as of Sept. 15, exceeding 20 percent for the first time, government figures showed.

The population and percentage of the elderly rose about 1 million and 0.8 points, respectively, from a year ago, the internal affairs ministry announced in conjunction with Respect-for-the-Aged Day, a national holiday, on Sept. 17.

The increase was mainly attributable to the fact that the so-called “baby boomer generation," born from 1947 to 1949, began to reach age 70 in 2017.

The number of elderly people, or those aged 65 or older, was estimated to be 35.57 million, accounting for 28.1 percent of the total population. Both were record highs.

The number and the percentage of those senior citizens rose 440,000 and 0.4 points, respectively, from a year ago. Both figures have been on the rise since 1950 when comparable statistics began to be kept.

On the other hand, the total population decreased by 270,000 to 126.42 million mainly due to the declining birthrate.

By gender, the number of women aged 65 or older stood at 20.12 million, or 31.0 percent of the total female population, while that of men of the same age group was 15.45 million, or 25.1 percent of the total male population.

The ratio of elderly people to the entire population in Japan is the highest in the world, followed by Italy with 23.3 percent, Portugal with 21.9 percent, Germany with 21.7 percent and Finland with 21.6 percent, according to surveys by the ministry and the United Nations in 2018.

According to the estimates made by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s ratio of elderly people will reach 30 percent in 2025. In 2036, one-third of the total population will be 65 or older.

According to the ministry’s labor survey, 23.0 percent of those senior citizens are working, up 3.3 points from 10 years ago and the highest among the seven major industrialized countries.