Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Population Statistics and Their Politics

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released the results of its March population survey, based on the basic residence registries of all local administrative units nationwide.

Some of the main points of the survey:

- the total population of citizens managed to grow last year, if only a by a paltry 10,005 individuals (0.01%). A look at the population pyramid would predict a birth boomlet of women in their thirties having children (Tried to get your little one enrolled a childcare facility in Setagaya Ward lately?) right now, which seemingly has put the brakes on overall population decline (in the mid-term: care to bet that the global economic crisis will cause the population dip in 2010, as it did in 2006 and 2007?).

- In a bit of statistical variability weirdness, the number of citizens dying in the year to March 31, 2009 increased by only 0.8% over the previous year, this after having grown by over 4% a year before.

- 50.37% of the population live in the greater metropolitan areas of just three urban centers: Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka-Kyoto. This is up from 50.2% last year.

- Tokyo is still the population growth leader, growing by 0.69% over the year. It is followed by Kanagawa (0.57%) and Chiba (0.55%), the only other prefectures growing by more than 0.5% last year. Saitama, Aichi, Shiga, Hyogo, Osaka, Fukuoka and Okinawa also grew. All 37 other prefectures lost population, with the cold prefectures of Akita (-1.07%) and Aomori (-0.93%) leading the way down. Though on the positive list this year, the prime minister's home prefecture of Fukuoka (0.02%) is poised to fall into the deficit column soon, as are Hyogo (0.07%) and Osaka (0.07%). Easy-going Okinawa continued to be the runaway leader in natural growth (births over deaths) by a country kilometer (0.52%) but sank into second rank in the growth charts due to people leaving the prefecture to find work. Tokyo remains the national vampire, sucking in population from elsewhere: 90% of its population growth resulted from persons moving into the prefecture, rather than from natural growth.

With the new population figures out, the newspaper boys and girls quickly whipped out their spreadsheets and maps to calculate once again the least-represented and most over-represented electoral districts in the land, and size of the deviation from the principle of one person / one vote.

The winner, which is to say the loser this election cycle is Chiba District #4, the city of Funabashi, where the Yomiuri Shimbun says 2.337 voters will have to pool their votes in order to equal the power of just one voter in Kochi District #3.

Other place with exceptionally bad ratios are

2) Hyogo District #6 (Takarazuka City et al) = 2.302
3) Kanagawa District #10 (Kawasaki City) = 2.282
4) Shizuoka #% (Mishima City et al) = 2.243
5) Aichi #12 (Okazaki City et al) = 2.230

Indeed, the voter strength ratio is greater than 2.0 in 56 of the 300 electoral districts that will be choosing representatives in a little over two weeks' time -- meaning that in terms of the power to send representatives to the Diet, 56 districts are inhabited by half-persons or less than half-persons -- if you define a full person as being one of the happy residents of sunny Kochi District #3.

I have repeated it ad nauseum: the first order of business for a Democratic Party of Japan government will be reapportionment. The "differences in the value of a single vote" (ippyō kakusa) lies at the root of all of Japan's troubles. Over-representation of the rural areas--and the Liberal Democratic Party's necessary feeding of its clients living and voting therein--have shackled the nation with policies that send resources to where the citizens are not, scarred much of the countryside's natural beauty, smothered evaluation of the government's performance and burdened the nation with debts of astronomical proportions. Without one-person-one-vote representation in at least one of the Houses of the Diet, democratic elections, however well-managed and fairly conducted, are unlikely to deliver outcomes benefiting a majority. I am fairly sure also that a failure to reapportion leaves the country without a hope of ever pulling out of its downward spiral.

Failing to reapportion according to one-person-one-vote also leaves the door open for LDP to come back to power. Perhaps this final possibility will push the DPJ into betraying, post-election, the very same rural and machine voters it has worked so hard to win over to its side.


Jan Moren said...

Thanks for the heads up. See if Osaka prefectural data is released soon. Will be interesting to see which cities are losing population, and if the trends are the same as previous years.

BTW, it's just a little unfair to call Tokyo - or any city - a vampire; after all, it's not actively soliciting people to come, and it has plenty of negatives (high rents, loneliness and alienation, noise and stress) to discourage people. And if Japan is anything like a certain Scandinavian country I know about, the major cities are actually subsidizing the regional and rural centres already.

PaxAmerican said...

So how do you imagine Japan would have fared in the post-bubble years if there had been a more representative system? Perhaps something along the lines of the US, where the big cities/states have one house locked up, but no chance in the other.

It seems to me that money and media power are what really move politics, and you can see that in the US, where the overwhelming amount of money in an election in, say, Montana will come from NY or California. Isn't the same true of Japan?