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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 June, 2004, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Japan hits record on centenarians
Keizo Miura (centre), taken in 2003 when he was 99
Veteran skiier Keizo Miura is one of Japan's more famous centenarians
Japan's ageing population has recorded another first - the number of centenarians has doubled in the last five years to more than 20,000.

A new government report also found that nearly one in five people is now over 65, a proportion that is set to rise to one in four by 2050.

The report underlined government worries about an over-burdened pension scheme as its population ages.

People are living longer thanks to improved diet and better medical care.

The report, issued by the Cabinet Office, said that at the end of September 2003, 20,561 Japanese were aged 100 or over, up from about 10,000 people in 1998.

Women accounted for 85% of the total.

Japan already has one of the world's highest life expectancy rates, at 78 years for men, and 84 for women.

The propensity to long life is not seen as wholly positive, however, as the country's birth rate is falling at the same time.

More retirees are set to draw their pensions, while fewer working-age people are paying into them.

According to some estimates, Japan will be home to roughly one person over 65 for every two working-age people by 2025.

Under pension reforms approved at the week end, the government is planning to curb benefits and increase premiums.

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07 Jun 04  |  Business
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13 Nov 03  |  Asia-Pacific

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