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ASIAN CANADIAN

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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Number of Japanese aged 90 or older tops one-million mark for first time

TOKYO (AP) - The number of people aged 90 or older in Japan topped one million for the first time last year, including a record 23,000 centenarians, according to a government report released Friday. To counter record low birthrates and an aging population, Japanese people must keep working as they get older, with society drawing upon "the abilities and experience of the elderly in order to preserve and increase the vitality of the country," said the annual report on the country's looming demographic crisis.

Those aged 65 or older - past typical retirement age - accounted for a record 19.5 per cent of the country's 127.69 million people, up 0.5 points from 2003, the report said.

The number of workers in that age group accounts for 7.4 per cent of the work force, and is expected to jump by almost half over the next decade to 11 per cent by 2015, the report said.

The greying population and low birthrate threaten to leave the world's second largest economy with a labour shortage, erode the country's tax base and strain the pension system as fewer taxpayers try to support the expanding elderly population.

Earlier this week, the government said Japan's birthrate remained at a record low with women giving birth to an average of 1.29 children over their lifetimes.

© The Canadian Press, 2005

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