By Elaine Lies
TOKYO (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s tweet saying Japan would “eventually cease to exist” without a higher birth rate sparked a flood of sarcasm and anger on Monday – although much of the anxiety was directed at the Japanese government, which many said has done little to address the issue.
Musk, head of electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc., tweeted over the weekend: “In danger of stating the obvious, unless something changes to make the birth rate exceed the death rate, Japan will eventually cease to exist. That would be a great loss to the world. . “
The comment struck nerves among observers in Japan and Japan, whose population peaked in 2008 and has since fallen due to a low birth rate to about 125 million last year despite government warnings and sporadic attempts to tackle the issue.
But Japan remains the world’s third-largest economy, hosting global heavyweights, from carmakers to game developers, and is a key link in global semiconductor supply chains.
“What’s the point of tweeting this at all?” wrote Tobias Harris, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
“The worries about Japan’s demographic future are not that ‘Japan will eventually cease to exist’, but deep social dislocations that occur as a result of declining populations.”
Others noted that a slow birth rate plagued many nations other than Japan, including Germany – where Tesla had just opened a new factory – and that Japan was simply the first to be hit.
But many Japanese commentators said the situation was not surprising and condemned their government for not doing enough to combat it, such as providing more day care centers and making it easier for women to return to work after having children.
“They keep saying that the birth rate is falling, but since the government is not taking fundamental steps to address it, what can we say? Everything they say and do is contradictory,” Twitter user SROFF wrote.
“In this environment, who’s going to say ‘Okay, let’s have a baby’? I despair about Japan.”
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Christopher Cushing)