The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Japan:
- Demographic and economic challenges
Japan faces a demographic challenge as its dependency ratio reaches 48% and is projected at 80% in 2050. This puts pressure on the country’s public health system, along with pensions and long term care insurance. This would mean an increase in debt for the country along with interest payments rising rapidly. In addition, the country holds the highest amount of debt compared to other rich countries, with a 239% debt burden.
- Radiation and social concerns
Japan continues to face the lingering effects of the Fukushima disaster as radiation spots have been detected in areas within the country, causing concern for the health of citizens. As of September 30, 2019 radiation levels in Fukushima are 1.182 millisieverts while the recommended yearly average is 1 millisievert. Seafood production has been heavily impacted, and there have been occasional reports of seafood contamination. The discharge of radioactive water from Fukushima is being disputed.
- Child abuse
The health ministry in Japan reported 159,850 cases of child abuse in 2018. The most reported form of abuse was psychological abuse, followed by high instances of murder-suicides. While more cases of child abuse are being reported, the number of deaths relating to child abuse have shown an increase due to inefficient government policies. Reports of child abuse increased by 19.5% between March 2018 to March 2019.
- Gender inequality
Japan has the third-highest gender wage gap (OECD). Despite having a 71% participation in the economy, women in Japan are subject to a large gender pay gap. While part-time work is encouraged in the country, many women face marginalization and are unable to save money for retirement. Elderly women are likely to benefit less from retirement compensation due to low lifetime salaries. According to a government survey from 2019, only 28.4% of women in the workforce show satisfaction with the workplace environment.
- Commercial whaling
Japan’s decision to resume whaling has threatened conservation efforts for whale protection. Japan is no longer a part of the IWC and has made a decision to resume whaling to protect aspects of Japanese culture. Pulling out of the IWC has made Japan immune to international laws concerning whaling. Japan made efforts to introduce quotas of whaling within regulations of IWC, which was unsuccessful. Whale and Dolphin conservation (WDC) has reported the hunting of 503 minke whales, and 134 endangered Sei whales by Japanese whalers in 2018.