Thursday, September 28, 2017
By: Marina Neuman
Produced & edited by: Jacob Solether
After years of warning, it is no longer possible to ignore Japan's
dramatically shrinking population.
Photo from NPR.org
In five years, the population has fallen by almost 1 million people. Japan’s total fertility rate had hit 1.41 children born per woman, according to the CIA, meaning Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. Further estimates by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research predict Japan’s population will continue to fall, hitting 97 million by 2015, this would be a dramatic decrease from the 127.5 million people reported in 2012.
It began following World War II, when Japanese Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida made rebuilding Japan’s economy his top priority. While his efforts 65 year ago largely helped Japan to become the third-largest economy in the world today, the negative impact is clear.
“During the 1950’s, women's university enrollment rate exceeded 40%," Tokyo University economist Hiroshi Yoshida said. But as more women entered the workforce and businesses began to ask more of their employees, fertility began to plummet.
However, Japanese culture is beginning to change, and fewer young people than ever are dating and marrying. A 2010 survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security shows 61 percent of unmarried men and 49 percent of women aged 18-34 were not in a romantic relationship, up almost 10 percent from five years earlier. Another study found one-third of people under 30 had never dated at all. “I think most young people just can't be bothered.” Mioko Nemec, a Japanese woman studying at Ohio University, said. “Women want to focus on a career instead of being pushed into the role of a wife and mother.”
In order to encourage an increased birth rate, the Japanese government began to host speed dating events and fatherhood classes to help men see themselves in a parental role, but that isn’t enough — corporations also need woman-friendly policies.
“Theoretically, Japan offers a parenting leave system for up to three years, mothers can only be paid during the first year,” said Rieko Kishi Fukuzawa, a nurse and midwife in Tsukuba, Japan. “This forces many to return to work earlier than they would typically wish, due to financial reasons.”
Gender norms and cultural expectations also typically interfere with work and children. Although husbands can now spend more time with their new babies than was previously custom, few men take paternity leave.
“To me, it is the way that some young people don't trust a marriage value,” said Risako Tanaka, a stringer for NHK in Tokyo. “Overall, young people are less interested in a complicated relationship. On the other hand, some people put their career first.”
When compared to the U.S Tanaka says, ‘In Japan, and in the US, if women seek for a same promotion/wage as man does, she needs to work twice or triple. There is a gender bias, and in Japanese mind, people put high values on their professions. It is quite a difference in terms of women's role as well. If you are married and working, you are expected to do perfectly at home and at work. Japanese wives do most of the house choirs (which is more time-consuming than here in the US).”
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