Japan’s elderly die alone, clean-up industries on a rise
Japan is home to the world’s fastest-growing population with 25% of the population above 65 years and this figure is only set to grow 40% in 2050 (source: International Longevity Center). Though there’s no official data, experts at Nippon Life Insurance Institute say that close to 30,000 people die alone in Japan. With numbers as high as that, there is a whole industry dedicated to cleaning-up after the person dies alone.
‘Kodokushi’ or ‘dying alone’ is a growing trend in Japan, where old people are giving up the search for partners in middle age and instead choosing a solitary existence. Experts claim that the country’s radical social and economic changes have weakened its social safety net, where families cannot bear the burden of taking care of an elderly. Single-occupancy households have risen to 14.5% of the total population. This figure consists mainly of men in their 50s and women in their 80s and older. Another reason for the drop in marriages is men fearing that their job may be jeopardised if they start a new family. Women who are entering the workforce don’t need a man to provide for them.
This phenomenon, however, is giving rise to companies whose sole business model is to clean the deceased’s apartment and possessions. Besides other duties carried out, these companies send the belongings of the dead for either recycling or put them up for sale.
Part of the problem is that Japan leads the world in longevity, where the life expectancy in the country is almost 84 years. At 1.41, Japan has one of the lowest fertility rates. Experts predict that the population is set to fall from the present day 127 million to 107 million in 2050 (source:International Longevity Center). Lesser babies born in a country will result in a lower replacement level - the average number of children born per woman—at which a population replaces itself from one generation to the next, without migration.
All in all, it paints a grim picture of the elderly living in modern day Japan.