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The Green Blog: Why Japan Might Face a Demographic Crisis

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Jan 15, 2014    •    884 Views

By Madeleine Vance, guest blogger and student at Kent Place School.

As of late, younger Japanese citizens are choosing to live the single life rather than get married. But why?

Seven years ago, Japan’s population climaxed at 128 million, but since then, it has been decreasing at about one million people per year. The government has predicted that by 2060, the population may drop down to just 87 million people. This drop is a combination of upholding traditional Japanese culture and economic obstacles. Up until around the 1990s in Japan, many marriages were arranged by families or bosses. Since then, with salaries remaining at the same levels while living costs have soared, young Japanese men fear that marrying will force them to lower their standard of living to support a family.

Well, what about the women?

Despite the evolving world around them, the Japanese have upheld many of their conservative traditions. They believe that once women are with child, they should quit their job and take on more conventional roles to serve the family. And, it should also be mentioned that the workforce is rigorous and mercilessly time-consuming while care for children in Japan is hard to find and extremely pricey. In the US, working husbands get to spend an average of three hours with their family per day, while in Japan it is only one hour.

Could it be time for a reform in social tradition?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says it is. He has created a plan called “Womenomics” in which he hopes to allow women to comfortably provide income for a family and to create more childcare options. He believes women should not have to choose between a family or their work.

In order to preserve resources, many other Asian countries have passed laws to curb population growth, such as China’s one child policy. Opposite from China, if no change is made in the near future, Japan could face an extreme demographic crisis in terms of decreasing population. Japan’s population is aging faster than the women are giving birth, and no special Japanese “anti-aging” product can cure this dilemma.

As economists, our questions take us to fiscal policy, which involves government taxes, spending, and borrowing. As always, the government will be left facing tradeoffs. Should they target the older population with spending? Or should they spend money to ensure productivity rises among the Japanese youth? How will they support an increasingly large proportion of the population that no longer works while also protecting the economy? Where does the balance lie for future Japan?

Sources: The BBC and theweek.com provided my facts and were enjoyable articles. At econlife, we have discussed problems with Japanese daycare.

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