The Upside of Downsizing

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Science  29 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6042, pp. 547
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6042.547

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Japan's population will soon start shrinking, if it hasn't already. Despite worries about a shriveling economy and the burdens of the aged, Japanese have collectively resisted calls to boost the birth rate and embrace immigration. And some demographers think this will be fine. Some experts believe that per capita income could rise even as GDP shrinks, providing a more comfortable lifestyle for individuals despite diminished national economic clout. Populations are also shrinking in much of Eastern Europe and Germany, according to United Nations statistics. Italy, South Korea, and even China will follow suit by around 2030. Some environmentalists see this as a boon for the planet.