According to preliminary figures of a simplified 2015 census released Friday, Japan’s population dropped to 127.11 million — the first confirmed census decline since the government started conducting such surveys in 1920.
The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said the latest census shows that Japan’s population as of Oct. 1, 2015, was 127,110,047. This represents a decline of 947,305, or 0.7 percent, since the last census conducted in 2010. In the 2015 census, men accounted for 61,829,237 of the population, and women 65,280,810.
The population of Fukushima Prefecture, where many residents are still being forced to live away from home due to damage caused to their hometowns by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, decreased by 115,458, a 5.7 percent decline from the last census. The two other prefectures hit hardest by the disaster — Iwate and Miyagi — also saw population declines.
The ministry had estimated that the nation’s population had been declining for four straight years since 2011. The latest results are the first confirmation via a census that the national population has gone down since the government began conducting them.
A ministry official said Japan’s population decline seems to be largely due to the natural factor of deaths outnumbering births. The government conducts a census every five years, and this is the first since the 2011 disaster.
Out of 47 prefectures nationwide, populations declined in 39, including Hokkaido and Aomori. Of the three prefectures hit hardest by the disaster, Miyagi’s population dropped by 13,950, or 0.6 percent; and Iwate’s by 50,333, or 3.8 percent. The decline in Miyagi Prefecture was small, probably due to the inflow of people working on reconstruction projects. The population increased in eight prefectures, including Okinawa, Tokyo and Aichi.
The census found the number of households in the country was a record high 53,403,226, but the average number of people per household was a record low of 2.38.
A large-scale census is conducted every 10 years, and a simplified census is carried out every five years after a large census. The 2015 census was a simplified one.
Disparity seen widening
The vote-value gap between the most and least populated single-seat constituencies of the House of Representatives is estimated to widen to 2.334-to-1, according to trial calculations based on preliminary figures from the latest census released Friday.
This represents an expansion of the disparity from 1.998-to-1 calculated based on the 2010 census.
Selected for comparison were Tokyo Constituency No. 1, which has the largest population per its lower house member, and Miyagi Constituency No. 5, which has the lowest such ratio.
The disparity when compared to the least-populated constituency is estimated to expand to 2-to-1 or more in 37 electoral districts.
The law on the establishment of the Council on the House of Representatives Electoral Districts calls for limiting the gap to less than 2-to-1.
Since 2011, the Supreme Court has ruled that three lower house elections, conducted when a national disparity of more than 2-to-1 existed, were held in a “state of unconstitutionality.”
A research council on the lower house electoral system also demanded that the gap be brought to within 2-to-1. The council is an advisory panel to the lower house speaker.
Up 9, down 15
The allocated number of seats in the lower house will increase by a total of nine across five prefectures, but one seat will be eliminated in each of 15 prefectures, according to an estimate made by The Yomiuri Shimbun based on the latest census results and using the Adams’ method, which is recommended by an advisory panel to the House of Representatives speaker.
Under the current allocation of lower house seats, vote-value disparities between prefectures are 1.885-to-1 or less. But if the increase of nine seats with a reduction of 15 seats is realized, the disparities will drop to 1.668-to-1 and remain lower than the current figure for a while, even if populations in prefectures change in the future.
Though the Democratic Party of Japan, Komeito, the Japan Innovation Party and others intend to accept a report made by the advisory panel recommending the Adams’ method, the Liberal Democratic Party is wary of introducing it. The LDP says vote-value disparities should initially be dealt with by trimming six seats and not adding any.
However, according to an estimate based on the latest census results made with the LDP reform plan to eliminate six seats, one seat each will be eliminated in six prefectures — Aomori, Iwate, Mie, Nara, Kumamoto and Kagoshima. But the largest vote-value disparity between prefectures will remain unchanged at 1.885-to-1. This might require complicated changes to the demarcation of electoral districts, observers said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already expressed his desire to enact a bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law and other legislation by the end of the current Diet session.