Hurry up and die please

Rafael Puyol. Vicepresident. IE Foundation

14 March 2013

The unseemly remarks of Japanese minister of finance Taro Aso who said that the elderly should hurry up and die, were not only outrageous - they also trivialized one of society’s greatest achievements.

The structure of the Japanese population is very complicated indeed. Each year more people die than are born and Japan still has a highly restrictive immigration policy. If it carries on like this its population will drop from its current figure of 128 million to 120 million in by 2025 and 95 million by 2050. And what about further into the future? One is tempted to say that in the end it will simply disappear as a country, but so many things could happen before that so maybe not.

Japan’s population is falling and is also getting older. A quarter of the inhabitants of the old empire of the rising sun are over 65 years old, and have the highest level life expectancy on the planet at 86 years for women and 80 for men. It is not difficult to imagine what this means in terms of future pension payments and other social spending, particularly that related to health... But even so, that does not give Taro Aso, the Japanese minister of finance, the right to ask the elderly to hurry up and die, not even those who depend on palliative care or those who have to be drip-fed, who the minister referred to as “tube people”.

The only thing left to say was that the government would pay for the funeral or cremation if they would just kindly say their goodbyes as hurriedly as someone who is running for a train that is about to leave.

The opinion gave rise to a general feeling of uneasiness, particularly among those who were in the front line so to speak, forcing Taro Aso to tone down his views.

Some things cannot be seen from a purely economic perspective, and old age should not be viewed as a problem more than anything else.

It may be true that it will have (already has in fact) significant consequences, but we should not forget that living longer and better is one of the great social advances achieved by humanity.

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