Japan’s birth rate has plunged to a new record low, undermining the country’s initiatives to address its aging population.
According to Japan’s Ministry of Health, the total number of births is fell to 799,728 in 2022, which is down 5.1% from the previous year. The birth rate is the lowest since the ministry began keeping records in 1899, falls to a record low for the seventh consecutive year.
As for the number of deaths, it has risen by 8.9% to 1.58 million for the same time period.
The low fertility rate means less workforce and fewer taxpayers to sustain the country for years to come.
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Japan, which is the world’s third largest economy, has the highest proportion of elderly citizens globally. The rising cost of caring for the elderly is reportedly draining the nation’s coffers, making it the world’s most indebted country.
“We recognize that the falling birth rate is a critical situation,” Yoshihiko Isozaki, a deputy cabinet minister, said in a briefing on Tuesday. “My understanding is that various factors are intricately intertwined, preventing individuals from realizing their hopes for marriage, childbirth and child-rearing.”
The government has worked to increase the workforce and to support children and their families in the effort to increase the population and the economy.
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Japan has encouraged more women to work and has welcomed some immigrants.
The government has reportedly allocated 4.8 trillion yen (about $35.3 billion) from the 2023 fiscal budget to a new agency dedicated to children and their families. It will lay out its child and child-rearing policies by June to double their respective budgets, according to Isozaki.
On the other hand, Narise Ishidaa member of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from the Mie Prefectural Assembly, suggested that the nation’s declining birth and marriage rates are due to the people’s lack of “romantic ability.”
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“The birth rate is not falling because it costs money to have children,” Ishida said during a question-and-answer session at the assembly on Friday, The Mainichi reported. “The problem is that romance has become a taboo subject before marriage.”
He suggested that the government conduct a survey to determine people’s “romantic abilities”.
Although Makoto Watanabe, a professor of media and communication at Hokkaido Bunkyo University in Sapporo, agreed that young people now lack traditional communication skills, he noted that this generation “communicates very well online and through social media,” according to the South China Morning Post .
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Among my students, I see them constantly showing “romantic abilities” through modern technology, which may be why Ishida can’t see it happening. Young people still want to get married, have a family, have more children, but when it is so difficult to buy a car or a house because of financial concerns, it is very difficult to have children.
According to experts, the low fertility rates are due to demanding work cultures, rising living costs, changing attitudes to marriage and equality and growing disillusionment among younger generations.
Due to the improvement in gender roles in Japan, many women do not feel obligated to marry and raise a child.
Young women are reportedly more likely to get a job than to marry and have children.
In 2020, the enrollment rate for women at four-year colleges increased by 51% since the late 1980s. The labor force participation rate for women aged 25-29 also rose from 45% in 1970 to 87% in 2020.
Demographic decline is also present in other Asian countries, including South Korea and China.
South Korea broke its own record for the world’s lowest fertility ratefalling to 0.78 children per woman in 2022.
China’s population decreased in 2022 for the first time in six decades, according to data released by the National Statistics Bureau last month.