The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law and Policy


Declining birthrate, aging society, Law and Politics

Research Background

Japan took the lead in the world in 2007 in becoming the first “super-aging society” (a society in which people aged 65 and over account for more than 21% of the total population). The aging rate has continued to rise, reaching 29% in 2022. The cost of the social security system increases while the aging rate goes up. Meanwhile, the young population continues to decline, and it threatens the social security system in future.

Many advanced industrialized countries also faced the issues of declining birthrate and aging population as Japan. However, the measures taken by each country are different. How are the issues of declining birthrates and aging populations framed in each country, what measures are taken, and how are political parties and organizations involved in policy-making? Moreover, how do differences in historical and cultural conditions affect policy-making? This unit will address these issues by using methods in political science and law conjunctively.

Details of Research

At this unit, we utilize a cross-disciplinary perspective to discuss issues of the declining birthrate and aging population. It is necessary to analyze issues from multiple angles by making connections with social security policy, family policy, financial policy, and immigration policy. Furthermore, in order to clarify the decision-making process, it is essential to utilize approaches from political science and public administration. At this unit, researchers in comparative politics, public administration, social security law, family law, and labor law will collaborate with domestic and international experts to advance the following four research areas.

  1. We will analyze the development of measures taken by advanced industrialized countries in response to declining birthrate and aging population and the consequent changes in welfare states. We focus on the role of political parties and organizations in the policy-making process, through comparison with European countries, where various initiatives are being taken, and with East Asian countries, which are facing rapid aging issues. As such, we aim to clarify the policy-related and political characteristics of Japan.
  2. While there is an increasing demand for bureaucracies to implement political instructions, there are limits to how well we can respond to the challenges of a declining birthrate and aging population due to availability of resources and interference with the basic lives of individuals. To what extent the government can and should respond and how to gain the consent of the public. To answer the questions, we aim to suggest policy options by comparing the challenges at government offices in Japan with those in developed countries.
  3. The rapid decline in the birthrate and aging of the population have a major impact on the social security system, including pensions, medical care, and nursing care. Given such a population trajectory, we continue to consider the form of a sustainable social security system from the perspective of social security law, and aim to provide specific policy recommendations.
  4. By examining the rules and operation of various civil laws related to marriages and parenthood, and by analyzing the nature of families and lifestyles behind the legal systems, we explore the causes of the declining birthrate and aging population, and work on concrete policy recommendations.

Introduction to the Unit Leader

Masaki Kondo (Professor of Public Law at Kyoto University Faculty of Law (Department of Public Policy for Collaborative Research), Theory of Political Process)

He has mainly analyzed the development of welfare policy and the decision-making process in Germany. At this unit, He will conduct the comparative case analysis between Japan and Germany regarding welfare state reform and their policy-making process in response to the aging population. Major achievements related to the research of this unit include publications of “The Political Economy of the German Welfare State” (Minerva Shobo, 2009), “The Trajectory of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany’ (Minerva Shobo, 2013), and “The Merkel Government’s Welfare Politics” (Minerva Shobo, 2009), “Overseas Social Security Research” No. 186 (2014) pp. 4-15, “Political Process of Value-Added Tax Reform in Germany” (Masayuki Takabata, Yasushi Kondo, Shigeru Sato, Susumu Nishioka (eds.) “Fluctuating Middle Class and Welfare State” (Nakanishiya Publishing, 2023) Chapter 10).