Elon Musk tweet saying Japan will ‘eventually cease to exist’ without higher birth rate sets off angry reactions

·3-min read
Elon Musk tweets about Japan’s declining birth rate, touching a nerve  (PA Archive)
Elon Musk tweets about Japan’s declining birth rate, touching a nerve (PA Archive)

A tweet from Elon Musk about Japan’s declining birth rate has touched a nerve among social media users and triggered a flood of angry reactions not just directed at him, but also the government.

“At risk of stating the obvious, unless something changes to cause the birth rate to exceed the death rate, Japan will eventually cease to exist,” Mr Musk had tweeted on Sunday.

“This would a great loss for the world.”

The Tesla chief made the comments while responding to a Kyodo News report about a record decline in the country’s population.

Japan, whose population peaked in 2008, has observed a steady decline for 11 consecutive years, with the biggest drop of 644,000 observed in 2021, taking the country’s population to 125.5 million.

While the country reported 831,000 births last year, this was outstripped by the number of deaths, at 1.44 million.

Japan, which has a number of important industries from car manufacturers to games developers, has long struggled with the challenges of an ageing population and a workforce shortage.

A relaxed visa system for foreign workers is one measure authorities rely on to fill in the labour shortage.

The tweet from Mr Musk, therefore, drew a slew of angry reactions, directed at not just him, but also the government.

“Yes this is stupid but it’s also a more commonly held view than you’d think by people with only a passing knowledge of Japan,” wrote Paul Nadeau, co-founder and editor at Tokyo Review.

“You cannot convince me this isn’t the stupidest rich person alive. You just can’t,” wrote another Twitter user.

“Real wages and dispensable income have been decreasing for 20-30 years in Japan besides how 40 per cent of employees are part-time workers with lower pay. How can they even get married and have babies,” asked another user.

“The population decline in Japan has existed for 20 years,” said Twitter user Kenneth Hayashida. “It’s due to high cost of energy with nuclear [energy] being limited after Fukushima. As a pediatric physician who is Japanese American and has lived this economic challenge for 27 years, yes. You are correct.”

Additional reporting from the wires