THE number of people aged 100 or older in rapidly greying Japan has hit a record high for the 41st consecutive year.
The Japan health ministry said 37 out of every 100,000 people in the country were now in triple figures – a total of more than 47,700, with 87 per cent of them women.
The figure is up more than 3300 on last year.
Centenarians include Jirouemon Kimura, a 114-year-old recognised as the world’s oldest man by the Guinness World Records. The oldest woman in Japan is also 114.
A ministry official said the survey was compiled more carefully this year after it was discovered the relatives of some elderly people had kept their deaths a secret, sometimes for decades, but still received pension payments.
However, the official added that the latest number could include centenarians who were still unaccounted for after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, where the bulk of those who died were elderly.
More than 20 per cent of Japan’s population of 128 million are aged 65 or over, one of the highest proportions in the world.
As well as having famously long-living people, Japan also has one of the planet’s lowest birthrates, with many young people putting off starting a family because of the burden on their finances, lifestyles and careers.
The two issues combine to create a headache for policy planners, with fewer working age people having to provide for an increasing number of elderly.