Dad’s Army

Japan’s population continues to age. It is estimated that a third of the nation’s inhabitants will be older than 65 by the year 2050. Naturally, Japan’s military parallels this trend. What’s more, a shortage of younger recruits is now making some defense planners question the current strength of its armed forces.

Japan is getting older. This truth, meshed with the nation’s continually declining population and tight labor market, have made it tough for many industries to find new hires. The Japanese military has been one of the hardest sectors hit by these shifts. But the military is an industry whose importance is worth well more than its ability to fuel the economy.

Last year, nearly 37% of Japan’s active-duty military were over 40 years old. If current enlistment trends persist, Japan’s shortage of fresh troops could threaten its ability to engage in prolonged or sustained combat. Military officials claim that there is no immediate problem with the relatively high age of personnel. However the military is concerned about finding new, younger recruits. Though the current military remains fit and able, without a fresh intake of youthful recruits, Japan’s fighting force could soon be considered Dad’s Army.

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Story and photos originally published in The Wall Street Journal.