TIME Japan

Japan’s Population Falls to 15-Year Low

More than 1 in 4 people in Japan are now 65 or older

Japan’s population has dropped for the fourth year in a row, bringing it to a low not seen since 2000.

There were just more than 127 million people living in Japan as of last Oct. 1, which marked a decrease of 215,000 people compared with one year earlier, according to newly released government data reported by the Guardian.

The biggest problem for Japan may be the rate at which its population is aging. The number of people age 65 or older in Japan has reached 33 million. More than 1 in 4 people are older than 65 and they outnumber people 14 and younger 2 to 1. The government estimates the population will drop to 86.7 million by 2060, with people over 65 making up 40% of the country.

Though the problem of falling birthrates and aging population is particularly acute in Japan, a similar problem is also brewing in Europe and the U.S. The federal government’s data from late last year showed that 2013 birthrates hit a record low in the U.S. in 2013, down 9% from a high in 2007, as American women delay having children.

TIME Japan

Scarecrows Outnumber People in Tiny Japanese Village

Getty Images

It's 150 scarecrows vs. 35 elderly residents

A village in Japan has four times as many scarecrows as people. And it’s all thanks to one woman — and more than a decade of work.

Tsukimi Ayano said she made her first scarecrow 13 years ago in the likeness of her father as a tribute to him after his death. Since then, she’s made more than 350 life-sized dolls but, like their human counterparts, they don’t last forever, so about 150 of them remain in Nagoro, a village in southern Japan.

Still, with a population of 35, the scarecrows outnumber the people in Nagoro by a good amount, acting as replacements for…

Read the rest of the story from out partners at NBC News.

TIME Iran

Iran Mulls Laws That ‘Reduce Women to Baby-Making Machines,’ Says Amnesty

Tehran plans to outlaw vasectomies and reduce access to birth control

Amnesty International has slammed Iran for proposing two draft laws aimed at boosting the country’s population, saying the legislating would “reduce Iranian women to ‘baby-making’ machines.”

One proposal would ban voluntary sterilization and restrict access to contraceptives, while the other would make it harder for women without children to get jobs.

In a report released Wednesday, Amnesty says the laws, if approved by Tehran’s parliament, would “set the country back by decades” and have serious consequences for women and girls. (For the past two decades, Iran has had an effective birth control program in place that provided affordable contraception, subsidies for vasectomies, and education on family planning and sexual health, with the aim of reducing the population.)

“By abolishing family planning programs and blocking access to vital sexual and reproductive health services, the authorities would be exposing women to serious health risks, and violating their human rights,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The second bill would instruct workplaces to prioritize employing men with children, married men with children and married women with children when hiring for certain jobs. The new legislation would also make obtaining a divorce more difficult, which Amnesty says would have “devastating consequences” for women in abusive relationships.

“The bills send a message that women are good for nothing more than being obedient housewives and creating babies and suggests they do not have the right to work or pursue a career until they have fulfilled that primary role and duty,” said Sahraohi, adding that without access to contraceptives more women would risk their lives and health by undergoing unsafe abortions.

MONEY Census

Most Americans Are Crammed Into 3% of the Country

aerial view of subdivision
David Sucsy

We love cities. A lot.

If you’re reading this, odds are you’re living in one very small portion of the United States. That’s because, according to a new Census report, nearly 63% of the population resides in what’s known as an incorporated area—we know it as a city—and those cities take up just 3.5% of the country’s landmass.

In other words, more than half of the people in the country are crammed into an area a little smaller than the state of Montana.

Not only have most Americans shoehorned themselves into cities, but more people are moving in by the day. The population of incorporated places jumped by 24.1 million between 2000 and 2013, slightly faster than the country’s population growth as a whole.

That shouldn’t be too surprising, since we know there’s a general trend toward urbanization in society, and while not all cities are urban areas, there’s some serious overlap. The majority of incorporated places are actually relatively small, but 60% of city folk live somewhere with a population of at least 50,000.

That said, it’s worth taking a second to consider how 198 million people, the total number of city residents, are all essentially trying to live on a tiny sliver of the country’s total area. New York, the nation’s most populous city, alone holds 2.6% of the U.S. population, despite taking up one-fifth the space of Rhode Island, America’s smallest state.

So the next time you think your apartment is too small, just remember: there’s a whole lot of space out there in the rest of the country. You just don’t want to live there.

TIME India

India’s Tiger Population Has Risen Significantly Since 2008, Say Officials

INDIA-ENVIRONMENT-ANIMAL-TIGER
STRDEL—AFP/Getty Images A Royal Bengal Tiger pauses in a jungle clearing in Kaziranga National Park, some 280 km east of Guwahati, India, In this photograph taken on Dec. 21, 2014

The surge from 1,411 in 2008 to 2,226 currently comes despite widespread poaching

India’s tiger population has risen dramatically in the past seven years despite widespread poaching, smuggling and diminishing habitats, according to latest figures.

India’s Environment Ministry says that there are now 2,226 tigers nationwide compared with a historic low of 1,411 in 2008, Indian news channel NDTV reported.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said India is now home to about 70% of the world’s tigers.

The news of the big cats’ booming population comes amid reports of a record number of tiger deaths between 2010 and 2014.

The previous tiger census in 2010 had pegged the total number at 1,706.

TIME States

This Is How Many Americans Will Ring in the New Year

At the beginning of the new year, a baby will be born in the U.S. every 8 seconds

More than 320 million Americans will ring in the New Year, the United States Census Bureau said on Monday.

New projections released by the agency show the U.S. population is expected to hit 320,090,857 on Jan. 1, which is 2.33 million or .73%, more than New Year’s Day 2014.

“In January 2015, the U.S. is expected to experience a birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds,” the bureau said in a statement. “Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 33 seconds.”

On a global level, an estimated 7,214,958,996 people will be alive to celebrate the New Year, up 77.3 million from last year.

See the real-time figures here:

TIME India

Indian State Bans Mass Sterilization After Surgeon Uses Bicycle Pump in Operations

Surgeon claims he never faced “a mishap or complication” during the dangerous procedure

A state in India issued a ban on mass sterilizations on Tuesday, a few days after it was revealed that a surgeon had used a bicycle pump in 56 operations last week.

Women undergoing tubectomies for sterilization are required to have their abdomens inflated, but this is generally done through the introduction of carbon dioxide rather than outside air.

Officials from the East Indian state of Odisha said using a pump for the procedure can be extremely risky, the BBC reports.

Dr. Mahesh Chandra Rout, the surgeon accused of breaking protocol, told the BBC that pumps are routinely used in Odisha during such procedures and that he had never faced “a mishap or complication.”

Tuesday’s ban is another addition to the controversy surrounding India’s mass sterilization drives, which are conducted widely and frequently to curb the country’s rapidly growing population.

Over a dozen women died during a sterilization drive in the state of Chattisgarh last month, a tragedy that was later blamed on substandard drugs.

TIME Obesity

Obesity Now Costs the World $2 Trillion a Year

Half the world's population could be obese by 2030, warns a McKinsey Global Institute report

The global cost of obesity has risen to $2 trillion annually, according to a new report, more than the combined costs of armed violence, war and terrorism.

The McKinsey Global Institute report says currently almost 30% of the world’s population is obese, and that if present trends continue, that almost half the population will be clinically overweight or obese by 2030.

The report cautioned that no single solution would reverse the problem, instead calling for a “systemic, sustained portfolio of initiatives” to tackle the crisis, such as better nutritional label, healthier food at schools, advertising restrictions on fatty foods and beverages, and public health campaigns.

TIME India

Indian Doctor Arrested After Women Die Following Sterilization Surgery

Women, who underwent a sterilization surgery at a government mass sterilisation "camp", lie in hospital beds for treatment at CIMS hospital in Bilaspur
Anindito Mukherjee—Reuters Women, who underwent a sterilization surgery at a government mass-sterilization "camp," lie in hospital beds for treatment at the Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Sciences hospital in Bilaspur, in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh, on Nov. 13, 2014

The surgeon blames pressure to meet targets and faulty medicine for the deaths

The doctor at the center of a tragedy in which at least a dozen women died following sterilization surgery in Bilaspur, India, was suspended from duties and arrested on Wednesday night.

R.K. Gupta, 59, operated on 83 women in five hours on Saturday, according to the BBC.

“It was not my fault, the administration pressured me to meet targets,” local news outlet NDTV quoted Gupta as saying. The doctor attributed the deaths to the medicines given to the women after the surgery.

In January, the Chhattisgarh state government gave him a commendation for performing a record number of sterilizations.

Meanwhile, another woman lost her life at a different sterilization camp in the same district and 20 others reported postsurgery complications, the Indian Express reports.

Authorities are still investigating the fatalities, which occurred during one of the many mass-sterilization drives organized to combat the country’s rapid population growth. The exact cause of death remains unclear, but so far the quality of medicines administered, as well as the infrastructure of the hospitals where the operations were conducted, has been identified as possible culprits.

“To me it’s not the surgeon’s fault, because if there was a problem with the surgeon’s actions there would have been bleeding and damage to the organs,” says Dr. Ashutosh Halder of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi.

Halder speculates that the complications were most likely caused by inadequate sterilization of the equipment used or an unfavorable hospital environment, although a team of four AIIMS doctors who visited the site told reporters they were “satisfied” with the arrangements there.

Sujatha Natarajan, president of the Family Planning Association of India, says that although precautions are necessary, doctors are not the sole bearers of responsibility. “Quality of service involves much larger stakeholders than that,” Natarajan tells TIME. “Putting all the responsibility on the doctor is putting a very high risk on the program itself,”

India sterilized over 4 million people last year, about 97% of whom were women. People in rural areas are offered financial incentives to undergo sterilization.

TIME Population

World Population Could Hit 12.3 Billion by 2100

Babies
Getty Images

Researchers had earlier estimated the population would only reach 7.2 billion

The world population may balloon to anywhere between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100, according to a new report that used statistics from the U.N. The new estimates far outstrip previous calculations of 7.2 billion.

The root of the booming population is high birth rates in Africa, according to the report, published in the journal Science. The number of people in Africa is expected to rise from 1 billion to 4 billion in the next 86 years. Researchers found that there is a 70% probability that the world’s population will not stabilize in this century.

“Earlier projections were strictly based on scenarios, so there was no uncertainty,” U.N. demographer Patrick Gerland told the Associated Press. “This work provides a more statistically driven assessment that allows us to quantify the predictions, and offer a confidence interval that could be useful in planning.”

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