East Asian state. In the period 1990-2006, the population growth rate of Japan touched the lowest values since the end of the Second World War, reaching in 2006 close to zero (+ 0.02%). The 2000 census recorded 126,925,843 residents, with an increase of just 1.1% compared to the 1995 survey, which in turn indicated an almost equally modest growth compared to the 1990 census (1.6%); 2006 estimates indicate 127,460,000 residents approximately. The birth rate continued to decrease, passing from 13.2 ‰ in 2002 to 9.4 ‰ in 2006, a figure which, in addition to marking an all-time low, is insufficient to ensure the natural turnover of the population.
According to topschoolsintheusa, the high standard of living of the citizens of Japan has also led to a decline in the mortality rate and the consequent aging of the population (20% of which was over 65 in 2006). To combat the demographic decline and encourage births, the government launched a plan in 2004 (Angel Plan), which provides for a series of measures aimed at changing the traditional order of the labor market (decrease in the number of employees who work more than 60 hours per week, increase in paid holidays) and to improve the assistance service for women and children. The lengthening of the average life span and the lowering of mortality and birth rates can also be considered as effects of the incessant urbanization process which, since the end of the Second World War, it has transformed the country’s territorial structure, leading on the one hand to an indisputable increase in the quality of life, and on the other to the creation of social and economic imbalances so strong as to negatively affect the demographic trend. The progressive increase in production of Japan, while on the one hand led to an increase in the standard of living in rural areas, has also favored the depopulation of these areas and the formation of colossal urban concentrations. This last process underwent a qualitative leap with the great migratory flow of the 1960s towards Tōkyō, Ōsaka and Nagoya, cities that have come to collect about 44% of the national population, 26% of which reside in the conurbation. urban area of Tōkyō, the favorite destination of the migratory movement. In 2006, four-fifths of the Japanese population (equal to over 100 million residents) were located in that narrow belt which, including the southern part of the island of Honshū and the northern tip of that of Kyūshū, goes from Tōkyō to Fukuoka in an almost uninterrupted succession of urban areas: three very large (Tōkyō-Yokohama-Kawasaki, with over 34 million residents; Nagoya, with over 8 million; Ōsaka-Kōbe-Kyōto, with more than 17 million), eight with between 1 and 2 million residents, and several dozen populated by some hundreds of thousands of residents each. The residual interstitial spaces are filling up very rapidly, due to the constant growth of a conurbation that is coming to constitute a single, immense megalopolis.
Starting from 1991-92, Japan had entered a phase of banking crisis and economic stagnation. To resolve this difficult situation, in 1997 the government decided not to use the country’s substantial savings to liquidate unprofitable loans and strengthen the financial system, and instead continued to insist on a policy aimed at favoring exports. This line of conduct led to a considerable postponement of the repayment of the debt accumulated by the country in the real estate, construction and small and large distribution sectors, as well as massive and risky investments, approved between 1998 and 2000. Consequences of these political choices were very weak economic growth and a large increase in public debt, which in 2005 amounted to 170% of GDP, compared to 50% in 1991. After the long phase of recession, the Japanese economy resumed growth between the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2004, thanks to the increase in private consumption, industrial investments and exports (mostly directed towards China). an increase which, however, it has not been able to do to lower the high share reached by the public debt. However, despite the presence of some positive economic indicators (in particular, since 2003 the GDP has registered growth, albeit not constant), the country remains conditioned by external situations. In 2004 there was a weakening in the demand for high-tech products in the world, which caused a slowdown in Japanese exports, the engine of the country’s development; in addition, the rise in the price of oil on international markets and the slowdown in the US economy had strong repercussions on the Japanese economy. 2004 was also characterized by an increase in the flexibility of the labor market, which contributed to a decrease in permanent employment, to the advantage of the less stable temporally and economically: the latter represents 30% of employment, while at the end of the nineties of the last century the percentage was just 15%. In 2005, however, the industrial performance of Japan, which accounted for 7% of world production, aroused a great surprise. The improvement of the situation was made possible by a process of structural rebalancing of the production system which, also thanks to the high productivity proceeds of previous years, it improved the profit of companies, significantly reducing credit exposure and bankruptcies. This positive state of affairs has inevitably also been reflected in the banking sector, which has thus reduced credit restrictions. In this scenario of recovery there was, albeit modest, also a recovery in employment (+ 0.23%). Furthermore, in 2005, the foreign trade balance was characterized by a large surplus, for which the country, while importing large quantities of agricultural commodities and raw materials, became the third exporter of goods in the world and the seventh of services (4% of the total).
The country’s workforce is distributed for 4.5% in agriculture, 28% in industry and 67.5% in services. As for the primary sector, only 13% of the Japanese territory is arable, but the land is used to the maximum. Agriculture, while seeing the percentage of its contribution to national income steadily decrease, continues to ensure 2/3 of the food requirement. Land ownership is very fragmented, with the exception of the island of Hokkaidō, where there are large plots. The predominantly volcanic origin of the soil makes its fertility high, which, added to the constant scientific research applied to agriculture and the extensive use of chemical fertilizers and modern machinery, allows yields per hectare among the highest in the world. Nevertheless, due to the unfavorable relationship between population and arable land, Japan is forced to import about 1/4 of its needs for agricultural products. Over half of the agricultural area is cultivated with rice (especially on the mountain slopes of the islands of Kyūshū, Shikoku and southern Honshū). Also important is the production of citrus fruits, cereals, legumes, vegetables, timber (66% of the territory is occupied by forests), as well as that linked to the breeding of cattle, pigs and silkworms. Fish production is of particular importance, for which Japan is at the top of the world, also thanks to the presence of a very modern fishing fleet, capable of feeding a strong export current. As regards the secondary sector, Japan, poor in subsoil resources (scarce iron deposits, few coal deposits and limited production of hydrocarbons), must import almost entirely raw materials and especially oil, on which the country (third consumer in the world after the United States and China) is highly dependent; However, numerous nuclear power plants, which provide about 30% of the needs, help to solve the problem of electricity generation. The manufacturing industry, dependent on imported raw materials, exports high-tech finished products, and is divided into impressive financial-industrial complexes, which also deal with the marketing of products. These complexes, however, make use of the collaboration of a constellation of small artisan companies, characterized by a containment of the cost of labor and general expenses by virtue of the weak trade union presence. This state of affairs helped Japan to become the first world car manufacturer (the plants on the island of Honshū are famous, but the most important houses, such as Mitsubishi, Honda, Nissan and Toyota, have also opened factories in East Asia, in South America, the United States and Europe), of industrial vehicles and, above all, of electronic equipment of various kinds, and to be among the first in the production of steel, cast iron, paper, synthetic fabrics, concrete. The steel industry, which is also heavily dependent on the import of raw materials, in addition to fueling the automotive sector, supports the massive shipbuilding activity, the largest in the world. The major steel plants are located in Kitakyūshū, Kamaishi and Muroran. The chemical industry and the metallurgy of aluminum, nickel, copper, zinc, tin, lead, magnesium and cadmium have also reached considerable dimensions. A strong contribution to exports is given by the textile industry, both in its more traditional sectors, such as silk and cotton (whose main center is Ōsaka), and in that of artificial fibers (processed in Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Shiga, Ehime)., Miyazaki, Tokushima, Kumamoto, while the synthetic ones are in Kurashiki, Okayama, Amagasaki, Sakoshi, Nagoya, Aichi, Yodogawa). The glass industry is also important, with its various specializations: from glass plates to bottles and optical glass, for which the Tōkyō laboratories are to be remembered, Ōsaka, Kanagawa and Shizuoka. Japanese production therefore covers almost all sectors, making the country not only one of the most technologically advanced, but also one of the most developed in the tertiary sector. About 90% of freight traffic is absorbed by the road network which increased its functionality with the opening, in 1998, of the longest suspension bridge in the world (3910 m), which connects Kobe with Awaji Island.