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Demography and Democracy: How Population Aging Alters Democracy – The Case of Japan

As demographic change is advancing in many liberal democracies, the implications of this dynamic for democracy increasingly receive attention. It is often hypothesized that due to a shift towards a greying society, elderly voters’ interests are over-, and the younger generation’s interests are underrepresented, with probable consequences for intergenerational equity, societal sustainability and a general ability to implement reforms. Against this background, this research project sets out to analyze the actual political implications of population aging and to examine potential responses to this demographic shift from within the political system. The project takes up the case of Japan, the democracy with the oldest electorate in the world. The analysis is conducted along two dimensions, political participation/representation and policymaking, and adopts a system- and an agent-level perspective in each dimension. The system-level perspective refers to the effects of population aging on the political system whereas the agent-level perspective refers to the responses of selected actors, specifically the young electorate and political parties, to an aging democracy. The project deploys a mix of qualitative methods which include documentary research on official statistics and unpublished campaign material of political parties, expert interviews, and focus group interviews, thus aiming for case study based in-depth insights. By applying a multi-perspective approach that covers the institutional and the individual level of political dynamics enfolding in Japan’s greying democracy, the project will generate knowledge on how population aging alters political participation/representation and policymaking, and consequently, the fundamental workings of democracy itself



Our research team Antonia Vesting, Anne-Sophie L. König, Stefanie Schwarte, Yosuke Buchmeier, Gabriele Vogt, and Alexander Dekant (from left to right)

Our project in a nutshell (download)

Principal Researcher: Gabriele Vogt
Associate Researcher: Yosuke Buchmeier
Research Fellows: 
Anne-Sophie L. König, Stefanie SchwarteAntonia Vesting
Research Assistant: Alexander Dekant
Collaborators: Ken Hijino (Kyoto Universität), Hanno Jentzsch (Universiteit Leiden), Takashi Kibe (International Christian University), Michaela Kreyenfeld (Hertie School), Philip Manow (Universität Siegen), Sachie Oka (Kyūshū University), Seiki Okazaki (Kyūshū Universität), Silke Übelmesser (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena)


  • Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Projektnummer 510553228

Selected publications:

Journal papers:

Media contributions:

  • Older Voters Are Taking Over in the World's Wealthy Democracies (by Timothy W. Martin and Dasl Yoon). In: The Wall Street Journal (2024/04/09). (Buchmeier)
  • Demografischer Wandel: Immer länger arbeiten? Womit Japan Deutschland inspirieren kann – und womit nicht (by Jacqueline Westermann). In: Märkische Oderzeitung, Südwest Presse u.a. (2023/04/04). (Vogt)

Selected events:

Conferences, Workshops, etc:


  • Enjoying a Longer Life in Germany and Japan (Roundtable discussion with Leo Sakaguchi, Clemens Tesch-Römer, Gabriele Vogt, Chika Yamamoto). At: 15th German-Japanese Young Leaders Forum 2020-2023 Alumni Conference on “Aging Societies”, 2023/09/29, Berlin.
  • Democratic challenges in the face of demographic aging: evidence from Japan. At: 17th International Conference of the European Association for Japanese Studies (EAJS), 2023/08/18, Ghent University, Ghent/Belgium. (Buchmeier)
  • Zur Zukunft der Demokratie III: „Demokratie auf dem Land: Trends politischer Partizipation in den Regionen“ (Roundtable discussion with Yosuke Buchmeier, Petra Hahn, Hannes Hasenpatt, Eri Ōtsu, Sebastian Polak-Rottmann, Shunsuke Takeda, Gabriele Vogt). At: Japanisch-Deutsches Zentrum Berlin and Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien, 2023/05/11, Online.
  • Wie bewältigen Japan und Deutschland den demografischen Wandel? Ein Zwischenstand 2023 (Roundtable discussion with Christine Hieb, Shingo Shimada, Hildegard Theobald, Gabriele Vogt). At: Japanisch-Deutsches Zentrum Berlin and Smart Living & Health Center e.V., 2023/04/20, Berlin.