Sadly the Japanese are not having enough children to replace their population
Sadly the Japanese are not having enough children to replace their population
As a parent attempting to raise children in Japan I can tell you that part of the problem is inadequate housing at exhorbitant prices. The cost of living in Japan effectively prevents families from having children. To have a child in Japan and own a house is often mutually exclusive. This problem cannot be solved until the cost of living in Japan is made more reasonable, but that won’t happen. I expect the the number of children in Japan to continue to decline for the forseeable future.
To be fair, Japan in the last few decades doesn’t have a culture that really fosters starting a family. economically speaking, the cost of living is very high, a college degree is practically required for success and people seem to work all the time. Even married people don’t really have time to “get together” as it were. Also, in terms of unplanned teen pregnancies,they DO happen. But the solution is almost always an abortion. High school is not compulsory ,so if you don’t finish, there isn’t much that can be done. Parents would rather you abort. Also, although unmarried sex isn’t necessarily taboo, believe it or not, it is usually delayed. It is actually not uncommon to meet 20 year old women who have NEVER had sex or a boyfriend. I had a friend who informed me that she had never had a boyfriend, which wasn’t a big deal because many of her peers hadn’t either. This is due to economic reasons though, not religious or moral ones. The society focuses on completion of education and academic achievement. Needless to say, certain sacrifices are made for financial stability. Also, I noticed that on college campuses, men and women tend to dine separately. None of them were in amorous relationships with each other. Generally speaking, these men are quite shy.
Not much different than in the USA, people are waiting longer and longer to get married. They have to. A consumerist system that requires its citizens to clock long hours in order to pay for their most basic of needs. Unlike in China where a one child policy is mandated, in Japan it’s just a response to a less than ideal situation. Also, for those women that DO marry, they often leave the country to marry someone from the West. It really boils down to the values and economic system of a country. Countries that value financial wealth and success as well as flaunting it, this is going to be a real problem. Notice how in America, we have a 50% divorce rate. Statistics show that most marriages end because of money problems not sex. The main reason people avoid marriage or children is because they can’t afford it. I’m 22 years old and I know I won’t be able to afford to have a family until I’m at least almost 30. This is also true in developed countries like France or England. They’ve all resorted to the same tactic to fix their problem which is immigration… of any kind. Immigrants from poorer countries tend to be more family oriented and have larger families.Families from Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia tend to have at least 4 children. Families from Western/developed countries tend to have only 1 or 2. That is because children are considered “burdens” instead of blessings. they are a luxury possessed by the wealthy(ideally). I am a product of the burden/blessing dichotomy. Even though my brother and I were “planned” it was as if my father resented our existence because we were what made it so he could not buy various consumer items (cars, watches, clothes etc). The problem wasn’t that we couldn’t afford these things. The problem is that in order for consumer culture to work, the people have to be lead to believe that they are failures if they don’t posses them. It mattered not that we all were well fed, that we had heat and air conditioning, and that we were all generally happy and healthy. What matters apparently was the image we displayed to the world…even when the repo man came to deliver his dose of reality later on.
What is happening here is not unique to Japan in any way. we are so against large families that we have to parade them like freakshows on TV. The result is an increased labor shortage in the future. We’ll have a large elderly population with a few young people. We’ll have to change our social dynamic dramatically.
At least there will be a positive consequence in the future – a labor shortage.
This is by no means limited to Japan. To merely sustain an existing population over the long term, the lifetime fertility rate per woman needs to average 2.1. Right now virtually every “first world” country on earth is well below that. And it is spreading elsewhere too. Turkey and Iran have well below replacement fertility. Basically just Africa and the poorer parts of South America still fertility rates above replacement levels.
There is indeed a population crisis looming. Ironically the problem is the exact opposite of what people are expecting. We are headed for a global plunge in population. This is NOT good. What do you suppose will happen to house values when there are more houses than people? Massive loss in value, total job losses in the construction industry that will ripple out into everything else
Just wanted to emphasize this part, which is a trend that will affect our near future. The shortage of workers will also impact the viability of programs such as social security, medicare, and medicaid. I’ve seen a lot of talk about the phony “overpopulation” problem but not much about the looming underpopulation problem.
Demographic change is too big of an issue for our 24 hour news cycle addicted politicos to address. How much face time does a US Rep get for addressing things which wont affect us for 10 years? Compare that to Levin’s ignorant witch hunt of Goldman which was all over the news.
One wonders whether Japan or, indeed, the West, will change its social dynamic dramatically. The perception that one cannot afford children and life’s amenities as well might be heightened in Japan, and for the reasons you mentioned. But one has to wonder about that perception, particularly in the U.S. where, e.g., housing really isn’t expensive, generally speaking.
I guess I would be generally regarded as a freak with five children. I’m not “rich” but I have done okay and some would think of me as “rich”. My wife and I live well below our means. Part of that is because we have just come to think it’s better to be “outside the system”. But even that, I think, is due to the fact that our own parents put children well ahead of amenities in priority. Mine, especially, did, and lived well below their means also. My grown children do too, and one of my daughters has 7 children. Notwithstanding that their income tends to be well above average, they live a very average lifestyle.
To me, it is just inconceivable to not have children for the sake of electronic gadgets, new cars, fancy housing or expensive vacations. But then, I can’t claim any virtue because of that. It was something my parents taught me, both by word and by example.
Another factor that one can’t ignore is this. My wife and I are both independent of “what they think at work” in a way. I’m self-employed in a service that totally depends on skill, and my wife is a nurse. Our livelihood in no way depends on whether we show up at corporate events with the right clothes or in the right car or invite associates to the right country club for golf. I have a feeling that’s very much a part of the “no children” situation in Japan and here as well. “Keeping up with the Joneses” sometimes has occupational ramifications, and I’m not at all sure how that can be changed.
My suspicion, and my fear, is that once a culture has pervasively adopted the notion that living standard trumps children, there might not be any turning back, principally because the whole contrary notion is not taught, and thus may pass out of the culture entirely.