The tendency of Generation X in Japan to value their careers above marriage is distressing their ageing parents, so much so that the parents have turned to match-making groups to find spouses for their adult children. Some 47 per cent of men and 32 per cent of women in their early 30s were unmarried in 2005 — more than twice as many as in 1990. And most of these singles (70 per cent between 18 and 39) live with their parents. Japan has one of the lowest birth rates and oldest populations in the world.
Toko Shirakawa, author of the best-selling book, Konkatsu-Jidai, or The Times of Marriage Hunting — subtitled “One in four young people will not be able to get married” — says marriage in Japan has become a personal preference, not an essential part of life. Women who are now around 40 years old belong to a generation “that fought against the male dominated society and were the vanguard of women’s rights by having careers… They spent their typical marriageable age working so hard and society was not ready to provide security to them both in career and family life.” Now they are reluctant to put their hard-earned lifestyles at risk, “And marriage and family building are considered such risks.”
The matchmaking sessions for parents were the idea Michiko Saito, 64 and the mother of three children, who works for a marriage agency. She decided to start the parent get-togethers eight years ago after a woman she knew died of cancer, alone without any family. Although only 10 per cent of past attendees’ children have found spouses through the profile and photo sharing events, but it soothes the parents’ anxieties a little, says Saito.
She reassures parents by telling them it is natural for them to help their children in this way, but she knows she still has to convince some young people about the virtues of marriage. “I believe that people, especially parents, should show the value of family and how great it is,” Saito says. “No-one should die alone. People should live with mutual support and care. And I believe family is the answer.” ~ Google/AFP, Oct 23