New stats about old folks

September 19th, 2012 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

With the rapid aging of society it pays to pay attention to all the latest economic statistics regarding old people, and lately we’ve come across quite a few. Here are some new numbers about households in which the designated head-of-household is 65 or older, carried in the Asahi and Tokyo Shimbuns.

Keep on pushin’

  • The average monthly income in 2011 was ¥185,000, which is about ¥3,000 less than the average in 2010.
  • About 90% of total income is in the form of government and company pensions.
  • Average spending is ¥221,000 month, meaning that the average household is ¥36,000 in the hole.
  • However, in 2011 average savings for households when there are at least two people stood at ¥22.57 million. Savings among seniors has been increasing gradually since 2008, but the statistic may be misleading since it is heavily weighted toward upper income households newly entering the senior demographic. Median savings is ¥14.6 million.
  • 5.44 million people over the age of 64 worked in 2011, which represents 27.6 percent of the nation’s population over that age; 46 percent of men and 26 percent of women between the ages of 65 and 69 worked.
  • Total number of people over 64 exceeded 30 million in 2011, with 50,000 over the age of 100.
  • As reference, in 2005, when the number of elderly was slightly over 26 million, about 2.2 percent were collecting welfare. The average monthly welfare payment for two-person elderly households in Tokyo was ¥122,000 and for outside of Tokyo ¥94,500. About 47 percent of elderly who received welfare also received some sort of government pension, at an average of ¥46,000 a month.

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4 Responses

  1. A nation of retired people is somewhat stimulative for the working-age population, but old people are only going to spend what they need to spend I guess and they don’t need much.

    Living in the US now, I consider Japan’s demographic issue interesting but not as potentially catastrophic as the US’s baby boomer retirement burden.

    Japan’s baby boom lasted a couple of years — the old age overhang is simply due to the echo boomers of the early 1970s not replacing themselves due to the low birthrate.

    This means as Japan ages there will simply be less middle-age and young people, but the total number of old people is not going to grow much more from here (in absolute terms).

    Socially, Japan should be able to pivot its social welfare resources from raising young people to looking after old people.

    The US, on the other hand, is still growing, largely thanks to immigration I guess.

    The age 65+ population is going to double between 2000 and 2030, rising from 35M to 70M, and continue on rising to 84M by 2050.

    Young people in the US will increase from ~80M now to 87M in 2030. This means the US is going to require more resources across the board this century.

    But Japan has the prospect of having to scale back — to reduce and maybe even recycle much of its existing plant. We can look at the population graphs and see how demand is going to drop. 11M fewer people by 2030 — that’s the entire populations of Hokkaido and Shikoku, and almost the entire population of Kyushu.

    This is a complicated picture and I don’t think anyone can understand what’s going to happen this century.

    Overall, though, I think I’d rather have Japan’s problems to solve than the US’s. Both problems require political unity to solve, but I think Japan’s problems are actually more solvable and I hope getting unity of purpose in Japan might be more possible than in the US, with our bitter, and growing, national divides on things.

  2. This is an extremely interesting survey, thank you.
    Can you please give a direct link to the survey on the Mainichi and Tokyo shimbun websites ?

  3. Thanks for the comment. Actually, these statistics were not taken from a survey. They were just numbers isolated from random articles about older people that were published by the two newspapers over several months’ time. In any case we got them from actual print sources, not the internet, which is why it’s difficult to find links at this late date. Asahi might be possible, but a subscription is needed, and Tokyo Shimbun still doesn’t put all its material on its web page.

  4. An interesting but never mentioned trend in the U.S., anyway, is the high incidence of obesity and the associated diabetes. No one has addressed the effect this will have on longevity in the U.S. For example, I am 75. I did not have the opportunity to experience much fast food until in my 30′s. The diet of wartime Japanese was very healthful. Little meat, little in the way of white rice, mostly vegetables, little sugar together with lots of walking. Offsetting this was the universality of smoking. I think once we start to see the generations born in the 60′s with their exposure to fast food, plastics and other chemicals that are all too ubiquitous today, we will see significantly reduced longevity which will present a totally new set of problems to be addressed by political and medical bodies.

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