Japan’s economists, already worried about replacing a work force that is growing old and gray, along with Japan’s tour and travel industry, which has been concerned about an expected decline in the size of the prime travel age group of 25-54-years old, have just been presented with some new data from Japanese government officials that very well justify the worry and concern. Consider the following:
—According to statistics released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the number of babies born this year is likely to slip below 1 million for the second consecutive year. The country is expected to have produced 941,000 babies in 2017, the lowest since surveys began in 1899 and about 36,000 less than the previous year, government data showed.
—Births in Japan peaked in 1949 at about 2.70 million. But that has since changed and recent population trends continued as estimated deaths for 2017 stood at 1.34 million, the highest in the postwar era and up some 36,000 from the previous year.
—The natural decline in the population was estimated at 403,000, the highest ever and up by about 72,000 from the previous year.
—The number of marriages in 2017 dropped to 607,000, the lowest in the postwar era and down 14,000 from the previous year.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to resolve the dual challenges of the country’s aging population and declining birth rate by increasing support for child care and education, while his government has set a goal of raising the total fertility rate to 1.8 by around 2025.
Source: “Aging of Japan”—Wikipedia
Meanwhile, although the Japanese government (as well as its tour and travel industry) want more babies who would grow up, fill the workforce and spend money on travel, the women who might be able to have them seem to care less and less about finding men to help them create babies. A recent article in the Japan Times, said that 60 percent of eligible women say they cannot feel relaxed enough to get interested in renai (love relationships).
“As sad as it sounds,” intoned the Times, “the nation’s women appear to have joined the ranks of men as overworked employees, too drained from the daily grind. Specifically, women appear to be fatigued by the alternative — shokubano ningenkankei (workplace relationships) — and avoid going out on random dates, as they have now become synonymous with stress.”
In fact, one in four has confessed to having fallen asleep during a date. So, asked the Times, “Have Japanese women given up on love?” The answer: “A cautious ‘yes, sort of’ seems to be the answer. While that may indeed be the case, they have not given up on marriage. Although few women have the time or inclination for the rollercoaster ride of love relationships, a whopping 80 percent told cocoloni.jp they wanted to find a husband and settle down. They’re seeking antei (stability), preceded by a sumptuous wedding that would wow multitudes on Instagram.”
Never the Twain Shall Meet? The numbers are reversed when it comes to men. Sixty percent of those surveyed say they are not interested in marriage but close to 80 percent claim to want girlfriends. These men view marriage warily, aware that tying the knot will involve complications and baggage they aren’t ready to take on. Marriage would also cramp their style and eat into precious disposable income.
The Times article explores other reasons for the reluctance to get married, which include long working hours, the absence, for some, of guaranteed maternity and paternity leave and workplace environments. Addressing these issues, said the Times, “will go a long way in getting women to think about love.” But, adds the Times, “until then … the combination of pajamas and a couch remains irresistible.”