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07/16/2013

In Japan, adult diapers to outsell baby diapers by 2020

Japanesewoman
An elderly woman descends the stairs of a pedestrian bridge at Tokyo's Sugamo district, an area popular among the Japanese elderly.  REUTERS/Issei Kato

How do you predict what Japan will look like in 2020? Forget about reading tea leaves -- in Japan, it's the diapers that tell the tale.

According to a recent article in Nikkei newspaper, adult diapers in Japan are on track to outsell baby diapers by the end of the decade.

Nippon Paper is now ramping up adult diaper production in Kyoto, the Telegraph reports. Daio Paper Corp. is spending $35 million US to install adult diaper-making equipment at two plants, writes Nikkei. And Oji Holdings wants to build an entire factory in Fukushima just for adult diapers, according to the Telegraph -- with ambitions to churn out 25 million nappies per year.

It is a snapshot of an industry that tells a bigger-picture story: that of a greying Japan. The East Asian country is one of the fastest-ageing societies in the developed world and in 2011, Japan's seniors (65+) made up 23.3 per cent of the total population -- the highest percentage of elderly in the world, according to a report by Statistics Japan.

How quickly has Japan aged? Statistics Japan says that in 1970, only 7.1 per cent of Japanese people were aged 65 and over -- 23 years later, that same segment of the population had doubled, making up 14.1 per cent of the total population.

By comparison, Italy took 61 years to see a similar increase in its aged population -- and for Sweden, it took 85 years. For France, it took more than a century.

And the latest census figures for Japan's 65+ citizens? In October 2012, they made up 24.1 per cent of Japan's total population, meaning nearly one in four people in Japan were 65 and up.

Meanwhile, Japan also has one of the lowest birth rates in the world: an average of 1.39 children per woman.

Japan's adult diaper market currently rakes in $1.4 billion US annually -- and sales are growing by 6 to 10 per cent year, according to the Atlantic.

Jennifer Yang is the Star’s global health reporter. She previously worked as a general assignment reporter and won a NNA in 2011 for her explanatory piece on the Chilean mining disaster. Follow her on Twitter: @jyangstar

Comments

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I have my father,his brothers,
and one sister all over 90 years of age, and never using
"diapers". Why assume that all older people are using
these?

Awesome! Is this an indicator that adults suffering from incontinence and other illnesses already outnumbered the total number of babies? I really find this issue pretty interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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