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THE JAPAN FOUNDATION TOURING LECTURE: MEGA TRENDS IN EAST ASIA – WHAT IS HAPPENING? WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

In May 2015, I had the opportunity to lecture under the title, ?gMega Trends in East Asia?h at Universiti Malaya (on the 9th), Universiti Sains Malaysia (11th) and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (12th).

In the lecture, I shared my views on the future of East Asia from the three angles of ?gprogressively aging population and declining birth rate?h, ?gemergence of megaregions?h, and ?garrival of digital society?h.

?gProgressively aging population and declining birth rate?h is a phenomenon that is happening throughout Asia. Lower birth rate will not immediately result in an aging society, and for the time being it is a factor for stimulating economic growth (in other words, demographic dividend). However, this effect is fading year by year, and East Asia must deal with the consequences of accelerated aging in the future.

On the other hand, the migration of youth to cities is increasing, creating a different demographic profile in urban versus rural areas. As a result, the sphere of prosperity of megapolises has expanded to form areas known as mega regions. While megaregions become a driver of economic growth as it enjoys the benefits of globalisation, it is also one of the factors responsible for triggering income disparity within a country.

Furthermore, the arrival of a digital society symbolised by mobile and smart phones is a factor that speeds up the abovementioned low birth rate and formation of megaregions. In addition, it will have a transformative effect on the socio-economy. Digital society faces the danger of further aggravating the issues experienced by middle income nations.

However, we should recognise that we are now in an era of exploring new solutions using smartphones and SNS. The World Bank has pointed out that we are moving on from the period of ?gdigital divide?h to ?gdigital dividend.?h Of course, this is not an automatic progression but conditional on the youth taking the initiative.

After the lecture, there was an active question and answer session. I?fd like to take the questions, fertile with ideas, as fodder for future research. I would like to express my gratitude to the universities of Malaysia. I?fd also like to thank the Japan Foundation for the irreplaceable memories. Thank you all.

Keiichiro Oizumi is an economist and award-winning author who was invited by The Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur to deliver a series of lectures across Malaysia.

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