Can the Japan Self-Defense Force Age Gracefully?

The security environment around Japan has become increasingly tense with North Korea's continued development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, as well as China's rising power and expansionary military strategy without transparency. In such a situation, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) and Self-Defense Force (SDF) must secure highly qualified personnel that can respond to diversified and internationalized missions.

However, despite rising expectations from the public for the MOD/SDF, the recruitment of uniformed SDF personnel has been a serious challenge. In fact, as of March 31, 2018, the number of authorized positions for uniformed SDF personnel is 247,154, while the actual number is 226,789 — a gap of about 20,000 people and a staffing rate of 91.8 percent. Most recently, the National Defense Program Guidelines for FY 2019 and beyondidentified securing human resources for SDF personnel as “an imminent challenge in the face of shrinking and aging population with declining birth rates.” Therefore, it is important to analyze the current situation of population shift in Japan and explore how to reinforce the human resource base in the SDF.

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