Tokyo: Population Swan Dive Predicted

In a recent Evolving Urban Form article, we speculated that Tokyo, the world's largest urban area (population more than 35 million) could be displaced by fast-growing Jakarta or Delhi as early as 2030. If the prediction of central jurisdiction administrators and academics come true, Tokyo could be passed by many other urban areas in population by 2100.

The Japan Times reports forecasts that the population of the Prefecture of Tokyo, the central jurisdiction of the metropolitan area, could decline by nearly 50 percent (chart) between 2010 and 2100 (Note). Yet, while the overall population is dropping in half, the elderly population would increase by more than 20 percent. The resulting far less favorable ratio of elderly to the working population would present unprecedented social and economic challenges.

The article provides no information on the population of the entire urban area in 2100. The Prefecture of Tokyo constitutes somewhat over one third of the present population of the urban area.

During the last census period (between 2005 2010) the four prefecture Tokyo metropolitan area (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba), gained approximately 1,100,000 new residents, while the balance of the country was losing 1,400,000 residents. Japan is forecast to suffer substantial population losses in the decades to come. The United Nations forecasts that its population will decline from approximately 125 million in 2010 to 90 million in 2100. This is the optimistic scenario. The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research forecasts a drop to under 50 million, a more than 60 percent population reduction.

There are serious concerns about the projected population decline. According to the Japan Times, the researchers said that " ... it will be crucial to take measures to turn around the falling birthrate and enhance social security measures for the elderly,"  A professor the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, expressed concern that "If the economies of developing countries continue growing, the international competitiveness of major companies in Tokyo will dive."


Note: the Prefecture of Tokyo government is called the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. This term can mislead, because the prefecture itself is not the metropolitan area, but only part of the four prefecture metropolitan area. The pre-– amalgamation predecessor of the current city of Toronto was called the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. Like the Prefecture of Tokyo, the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto comprised only part of the Toronto metropolitan area. Confusion over these terms not only resulted in incorrect press reports, but even misled some academic researchers to treat these sub-metropolitan jurisdictions as metropolitan areas.