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Japan Lowers Voting Age to 18 Amid Rapidly Aging Population

by Arata Yamamoto /  / Updated 
Image: High school students casting straw votes f
High school students casting straw votes for Japan's general election in Tokyo on December 5, 2012.JIJI PRESS / AFP via Getty Images File

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TOKYO — Japan lowered the voting age to 18 from 20 on Wednesday, adding some 2.4 million people to the country’s rapidly graying electorate.

The aim is to encourage more young people to help shape the nation’s policies, particularly issues around the country's ballooning social security costs, according to the government.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that 26 percent of Japan’s population was 65 or older, making it the world’s fastest aging population.

“This is a very significant development considering many nations have already adopted 18 as the voting age and that this will allow for more young people’s voices to be reflected in politics,” the government’s chief spokesman Yoshihide Suga said during a morning press briefing in Tokyo.

Related: Japan Has The Highest Life Expectancy of Any Major Country

The law marks the first voting age change since 1945, when it was lowered to 20 from 25.

University student Hiroki Kosaka said that while he welcomed the news he was disenchanted with the entire political system and skeptical much would change as a result.

“There just are not any politicians with policies who deserve to be elected,” the 20-year-old said.

Related: Japan Will Have No Kids Under Age 15 by 3011, Researchers Say

His friend Shota Nomoto, who is studying politics at college, said who was worried that many young people simply do not know enough to get involved in public affairs.

“Most high school students are concentrating on their academics,” he said. “Unless they’re taught about the electoral system, I wonder how many would actually go the polls.”.

According to a 2008 survey by Japan’s national library, 170 out of 189 nations and regions in the world had a voting age of 18.

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