We often discuss Japan on this blog since it is “the canary in the mine” for many countries facing an imminent demographic decline due to failing birth rates. Countries in Eastern Europe are already having to deal with the reality of population decline (like Romania) while others further west (like Italy, Spain and Germany) are about to also have to deal with a population that is going down. Japan is, as you will well know if you read this blog frequently (which you should!), at the stage of seeing its population decline by hundreds of thousands year on year. Its government is trying to ameliorate this decline rather than trying to reverse it. The goal is to ensure that the country’s population stabilises at 100 million by the middle of the century (down from its current population of 126 million people).
This goal looks increasingly less likely when stories such as this keep on emerging from the land of the rising sun. The UK’s Independent newspaper notes the current grim figures: in 2016 the number of births in Japan fell below one million for the first time on record; on current projections, Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research predicts that the population will sink to 87 million by 2065. This is of course far below the government’s current goal. There will be no stabilisation without more Japanese babies and, without teaching anyone about the birds and bees, that requires Japanese women of childbearing age to have sex. Unfortunately, it seems as if the younger generations in Japan are not only not interested in having babies, they are also uninterested in having sex.
A nationwide survey from the same National Institute reveals that:
“31% of those aged 18 to 34 are virgins”
After 34 of course, the chance of conceiving and bearing a child without complications declines quite rapidly. 34 is not the end date for fertility of course, but if nearly a third of those aged up to 34 are not even fulfilling the sine qua non of having children then the government is going to have trouble in holding to that 100 million target. The report notes that some men “find women scary”. Which is not untrue, but perhaps the scariness would subside if you interact with a woman in the particular rather than think of women in the abstract. But interaction seems to be less on the minds of young men. Some of the comments in the survey that pop up regularly are: that relationships are too much work; that young men cannot be bothered to ask girls out; that they are scared of failure and rejection; and that internet porn is so much easier and ubiquitous for sexual gratification.
The survey also reveals the number of Japanese that have not got married. It showed that nearly a quarter of Japanese at the age of 50 have not yet got married and one in seven Japanese women aged 50 were yet to be married. The Independent stated that:
“Both figures were the highest since the census began in 1920, and represent a raise of 3.2 per cent among men and 3.4 per cent among women from the previous survey in 2010.
The growing trend was attributed to less social pressure to marry as well as financial worries.
The institute said the number of single Japanese people will likely rise, as another survey shows more young people have no intention of getting married in the future.”
So not only does the Japanese government need its citizens to have more babies, they also need them to have more sex. And to get married more. Hmmm. Perhaps they should just invest more in robots as the replacement for the children that the Japanese are refusing to have…