Tenth of Japan population aged 75 or older - govt

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TOKYO, Nov 22 (Reuters) A tenth of Japan's population is now aged 75 or older, a historical high signalling risks to the economy's long-term growth and ability to fund growing pension payments.

The number of people in Japan aged 75 or older came to 12.76 million at the start of November, up from 12.21 million at the same time last year, monthly data from the Internal Affairs Ministry showed yesterday.

The total population held steady around 128 million. Japan already has the highest proportion of elderly people in the world, while its fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime -- stands at 1.32, far from an estimated 2.07 needed to keep the population from falling.

Experts say Japan's ageing population and its low birth rate mean its population is set to decline, weakening the economy and leaving fewer workers to support a growing number of pensioners.

While companies have scrambled to hire older people, younger women, immigrants and even robots to make up for the labour gap, a decline in the economy's long-term growth potential appears unavoidable without a major rise in productivity.

According to a government report issued in June, Japan's population is getting older faster than any other country's, and the proportion of those 65 or older will double to 40 per cent by mid-century.

Reuters SKB DB0931

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