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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Challenges of Demographic Change

Research focus January 2005 - October 2015

Demographic change is a research topic that satisfies the above-mentioned criteria for research at the DIJ. It is interdisciplinary in scope, dependent on data and sources collected and analysed in Japan, and suitable for collaboration with Japanese researchers and institutions. Demographic change, while being of particular relevance for Japan, poses great challenges for many industrialized countries. Japan is a paradigm case for studying the interaction of heredity and environment, an interaction that leads to shifts in collective behaviour and demographic structure. In the history of humanity, the spread of ageing through the population is a very recent development that has changed and continues to change society at large.

In regards to population ageing, Japan plays a special role that is of interest beyond the confines of Japanese studies. Within the timeframe of only a century, Japan has transformed itself from latecomer to frontrunner. While at the beginning of the twentieth century the average life expectancy in Japan was significantly lower than it was in Western Europe, by the end of the century it was the highest in the world. Thus, in Japan, demographic ageing and fertility decline occurred much faster than in other industrialized countries, necessitating enormous adjustments of the social, economic and political systems. The complexity of the phenomenon and the multifacetedness of its manifestations in virtually all domains of society and at all stages of the life course (from birth to death) make it a paradigm case for interdisciplinary research. Moreover, the causes and consequences of Japan’s population development invite international comparison, especially with the prosperous nations of Western Europe. While declining birth rates, rising life expectancy and growing median age can be observed in all industrialized countries, changes in the population structure as well as responses to these changes on the part of both government and market tend to be country-specific. Japan is the first real-life test case when it comes to the question of whether a rapidly ageing and, in the medium term, shrinking society can maintain its economic clout.

Since the inception of the DIJ research focus, the challenges of demographic changes in Japan have steadily gained importance. Media coverage has increased notably; the government has designed policies and passed many laws concerning population development; and civil society steps in where state actors are ill prepared or too inflexible to cope with the tasks at hand. Investigating the social, economic, political and cultural transformations brought about by and accompanying population change proved to be a worthwhile undertaking.

In addition to many research papers, three major works have been compiled by researchers of the DIJ: Trilingual Glossary of Demographic Terminology, The Demographic Challenge. A Handbook about Japan, and Imploding Populations in Japan and Germany. In addition various workshops and symposia on the topic had been held (see events)

Completed Projects

Adult Guardianship in Japan

Advertising to the Silver Market in Japan

Childcare and Work-Life Balance in Low Fertility Japan

Civil Society and Population Ageing in Japan

Communication between staff and residents in a Japanese nursing home for the elderly

Demographic Change and its Regional Implications for Municipalities in Rural and Urban Areas

Employment of the Elderly, the Ageing Workforce and HRM

Entrepreneurship and Employment in Demographically Ageing Societies

Fertility and Social Stratification

Generational Conflict and Social Disparities behind Japan’s Low Fertility Society

Glossary of Demography

Housing and living arrangements in Japan's ageing society

Knowledge Society and Demographic Change in Japan

Migration and Integration in Japan

Political Responses to Low Fertility in Japan

Population History of Japan: Past, Present, and Future

Social Aspects of Low Fertility in Japan

The Silver Market Phenomenon: Business Opportunities and Responsibilities in an Era of Demographic Change

Wandel der Entlohnungspraktiken japanischer Großunternehmen bei alternden Belegschaftsstrukturen


May 22, 2015
DIJ Business & Economics Study Group
Does the Expectation of Having to Look after Parents in the Future Affect Current Fertility?

July 2, 2014
DIJ Social Science Study Group
Japan’s Single Women and the Disembedding Economic System

October 23 - October 25, 2013
Well-being in Ageing Societies: Perspectives from China, Germany and Japan

October 17, 2013
DIJ Forum
The Rise of Ikumen (child caring fathers) in Contemporary Japan

September 26, 2013
DIJ Forum
Is Japan a Lead Market for Age-Based Innovations?

April 11, 2013
DIJ Forum
Japanese Companies Respond to the Unforeseen: The 3/11 Disaster, Population Ageing, and Environmentalism

March 18 - March 19, 2013
Social Inequality in Japan: A Reassessment

March 7, 2013
DIJ Forum
Shrinking Rural Communities in Japan: Community ownership of assets as a development potential?

November 15, 2012
DIJ Forum
Who Will Care for Me When I'm Dead?
Ancestors, Homeless Spirits, and New Afterlives in Low Fertility Japan

November 10, 2011
Care Robotics in the Aging Society: Integrating Users, Developers and Technology

September 29, 2011
DIJ Forum
Sustainability Issues in the Super-Aged Society - Prospecting the “Platinum Society”

May 19, 2011
DIJ Forum
The Secrets of "Sūpā Rōjin": Fundamentals of a Successful Aging Society in Japan

December 13, 2010
Architectures and Models for a Sustainable Care - Adaptive Technologies for the Ageing Society

November 8, 2010
Architectures and Models for a Sustainable Care - Alternatives for Dealing with Population Ageing

September 29, 2010
Symposia and Conferences

September 15, 2010
Symposia and Conferences
Human Resources Policy for Ageing Workforce

September 7, 2010
Architectures and Models for a Sustainable Care - Death and Dignity

July 9, 2010
Architectures and Models for a Sustainable Care - Ethics

June 14, 2010
Architectures and Models for a Sustainable Care - Economic Policies

May 10, 2010
Architectures and Models for a Sustainable Care - Health & Health Policies

April 16, 2010
Architectures and Models for a Sustainable Care - Economy

March 1, 2010
Architectures and Models for a Sustainable Care - Technology

February 1, 2010
Architectures and Models for a Sustainable Care - Technology

November 19, 2009
Symposia and Conferences
Religious Organizations and the Politics of Happiness

October 1 - October 2, 2009
Symposia and Conferences
Communication in Institutional Elderly Care: Cross-cultural Perspectives

June 2 - June 4, 2009
Symposia and Conferences
Imploding Populations – Global and Local Challenges of Demographic Change

May 19, 2009
Japan: Das Silbermarkt-Phänomen. Neue Chancen, große Herausforderungen

January 20, 2009
International Migration in Global Governance: A Japanese Perspective

December 5, 2008
Rural Areas without Hope? Structural Change and Policy Options in Japan and Germany

November 6 - November 7, 2008
Symposia and Conferences
Fertility and Social Stratification - Germany and Japan in Comparison -

October 16, 2008
Housing the Elderly in Japan

October 2 - October 4, 2008
Symposia and Conferences
The Silver Market Phenomenon: Business Opportunities and Responsibilities in the Ageing Society

October 2, 2008
DIJ Forum
The Silver Market Phenomenon: A German-Japanese Perspective

March 7, 2008
Socio-political and Business Aspects of Care in an Era of Demographic Change

December 12, 2007
DIJ Social Science Study Group
“I did not know how to tell my parents, so I thought I would have to have an abortion” – A study of unwed mothers in Japan -

December 6, 2007
DIJ Forum
Cohabitation and First Marriage in Japan

November 12, 2007
DIJ Business & Economics Study Group
Foreigners Sell: The Case of Japanese TV Commercials

November 8, 2007
DIJ Forum
Evolving Japanese Perspectives on Death and Dying

October 23 - October 24, 2007
Symposia and Conferences
Migration and Integration – Japan in a Comparative Perspective

October 11, 2007
DIJ Forum
Labor market reform in aging Japan: A key for the structural reform plan

July 25, 2007
DIJ Social Science Study Group
The national rate of (re)production: gendered discourse in Japanese policy-making

June 21, 2007
DIJ Forum
The Agony of Eldercare: Two Japanese Women Directors Study an Age-Old Problem

June 4, 2007
DIJ Social Science Study Group
“Natural Principles of Law?” Reformist Governors Redefine the Local Sphere

May 23, 2007
DIJ Social Science Study Group
Multicultural Coexistence: Japanese Roadmaps to a more inclusive and pluralistic society?

April 12, 2007
DIJ Forum
The Challenges of the Japanese Integration Policy

February 21, 2007
DIJ Social Science Study Group
Migration and Citizenship in Japan

December 14, 2006
DIJ Forum
Marital Satisfaction and Work-Life Balance: A Viewpoint Indispensable to Mitigating Fertility Decline

November 22, 2006
DIJ History & Humanities Study Group
Communication with Foreigners in Japan: A Sociolinguistic Discussion

July 19, 2006
DIJ Social Science Study Group
What role for women in shaping Japanese social policies?

June 22, 2006
DIJ Forum
The Tokugawa Mating Game: Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in Historical Perspective

May 24, 2006
DIJ Social Science Study Group
Coffee, Culture, and the Ethnicity of Migration

March 29, 2006
DIJ Social Science Study Group
Japanese Americans living in Japan: national and ethnic identity formation in the ancestral homeland

March 23, 2006
DIJ Forum
Images of Japanese society presented in the ‘New Civic Textbook’ by Tsukuru-kai. Solutions for demographic challenges and social change?

March 9 - March 11, 2006
Symposia and Conferences
Family Policy in the Aging Society - A German-Japanese Comparison

March 2, 2006
DIJ Forum
Ageing tourists, ageing destinations: tourism and demographic change in Japan

February 9, 2006
DIJ Forum
Regional Inequality in Japan: Income, Health, Life Style, and Stature

October 5 - October 6, 2005
Symposia and Conferences
Demographic Challenges for Human Resource Management and Labor Market Policies - A German-Japanese Comparison

September 22, 2005
DIJ Forum
Lowest-low Fertility in Japan: Causes, Policy Responses and Related Value Change

June 1, 2005
DIJ Social Science Study Group
Building Parents of the Future: Japanese Policies to Boost the Birthrate

March 31, 2005
DIJ Forum
Marriage in Japan in an Era of Declining Fertility Rates and Aging Society

March 3, 2005
DIJ Forum
The Japanese Family Revolution


Junko Ando (until November 2015)

Peter Backhaus Peter Backhaus (until March 2010)

Harald Conrad Harald Conrad (until June 2018)
Economics/ Social Science: Social Policy

Florian Coulmas Florian Coulmas (until October 2016)
Director (2004 - 2014), Director

Isa Ducke Isa Ducke (until May 2006)

Volker Elis Volker Elis (until March 2011)
Business and Economics, Geography

Maren Godzik Maren Godzik (until March 2013)
Japanology, Sociology

Kazue Haga Kazue Haga (until April 2016)
Business and Economics

Axel Klein Axel Klein (until November 2015)
Japanese Studies, Political Science

Matthias Koch Matthias Koch (until February 2008)
Social and Economic History of Japan, Business History, Germany and Japan in Comparative Studies, German-Japanese Relations

Florian Kohlbacher Florian Kohlbacher (until August 2014)
Business and Economics

Ralph Lützeler Ralph Lützeler (until October 2019)
Geography, Population Studies

Andreas Moerke Andreas Moerke (until August 2006)
Business Administration

Annette Schad-Seifert Annette Schad-Seifert (until November 2006)
Social Sciences

Gabriele Vogt Gabriele Vogt (until March 2018)
Political Science