This lesson has two aims. The first is to examine China’s and Japan’s current and projected demographic problems. The second is to analyze how these issues influence human capital and economic growth. Human capital essentially can be defined as the measure of education, experience, and skills in a country’s population.
Japan’s meteoric economic growth from roughly 1950 through 1990 was based on developing increasingly sophisticated exports, a progression from products such as textiles to steel to automobiles and consumer electronics (e.g., the Walkman and flat-panel televisions). Much of this growth was based on innovation and dynamism from Japan’s workforce. Current population trends imperil sustained economic growth in Japan.
China has seen virtually unparalleled economic growth during the past two decades and an accompanying ascent as an international political power. Looming demographic challenges, however, jeopardize continued economic growth and may stall China’s complete transition into an advanced industrialized economy.
- Create population pyramids for Japan (for 2000, 2025, 2050) at the US Census Bureau Web site. Note the shifts in age groups.
Also examine the image below, taken in a subway station in Nagoya, Japan. Nagoya and its surrounding region are home to some of Japan’s industrial leaders, such as Toyota and its suppliers. Some of the languages include Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, yet note the use of Portuguese and Spanish.
- Create population pyramids for China (for 2000, 2025, 2050) at the US Census Bureau Web site. Note the shifts in age groups.
- Read China’s Lopsided Population Pyramid from a 2007 issue of China Security.
After looking at the above materials, please address all the questions in one response of 250 to 500 words. When addressing the questions for this lesson, consider:
- What are the current and future (projected) trends for Japan’s workforce?
- Why would Japan need additional human capital (especially once the current recession ends)?
- Why is human capital important, keeping in mind the products that we purchase from China and Japan?
- Is there resistance to immigration in Japan? Why or why not?
- In both China and Japan, are there problems regarding the dependency ratio?
- How is China’s demographic problem unique?
- What are the main factors that skew China’s population pyramid?
- In what ways have these readings increased your understanding of the population dynamics and challenges of Japan and China, and how it impacts their economic growth?
- What sorts of policies could the governments of Japan and China take to address these issues? Are these policies politically attainable?
- How can you share these materials with your students and how can these materials be integrated into your lesson plans?