Research into Japanese demography has confirmed the country's problem with its birth rate has gotten worse
Japan has long been feeling the pressures of its unusual demography, what with having the world’s oldest population, a lacklustre birthrate, and a culture where 49% of unmarried women and 61% of unmarried men are not in any kind of romantic relationship. Worse still, almost one on four Japanese men and women don’t want to meet anybody, and 45% of women and 25% of men aged 16 to 24 “not interested in or [despising] sexual contact.” But now the Japan Times reports an even more eye-opening statistic: 42% of men and 44.2% of women in the land of the rising sun are still virgins.
Every five years, a study is carried out by Japan’s National Institute of Population & Social Security Research. Almost 30 years ago, the body first started polling the country’s population on matters relating to relationships.
Based on the worrying statistics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it a government pledge to raise the birth rate from 1.4 to 1.8 by 2025, which hasn’t been bolstered by the news that the number of children among couples who have been married for between 15 and 19 years hit a record low in 2016. While most people surveyed did declare a desire to eventually get hitched, they were not clear on when they would ultimately settle down.
“They want to tie the knot eventually,” Futoshi Ishii, the study’s head researcher, said. “But they tend to put it off as they have gaps between their ideals and the reality. That’s why people marry later or stay single for life, contributing to the nation’s low birth rate.”
To incentivise Japanese couples to produce more children, Shinzo’s cabinet is offering better child-care services and tax incentives, though based on current date, the programmes have yet to make an impact.
While Japan’s marital woes are on the more extreme end of the scale, economic uncertainty all across industrialised nations has redefined the way millennials and others approach sex and marriage. But in Japan, where the phenomenon has become known as “sexual apathy,” a decade’s worth of effort to buck the trend of the dwindling population has left the government with more questions than answers.
The only positive taken from 2016’s study was that for the first time on record, the proportion of women returning to work after having their first child, often frowned-upon in the still largely patriarchal industrial structures of the country, exceeded 50%.