Gender Issues: Japan’s Shrinking Population Caused by Women’s Success?
By Lilli DeBode, guest blogger, senior at Kent Place School
Japan is facing a serious problem that many countries wish they had: a decreasing population. The population declined by 212,000 people in 2012, and the current fertility rate, (which is at 1.39 per woman) is continuing to drop each year. It has been predicted that by 2060, people aged 65 and older will make up 40% of the entire population. The reason? Japan’s younger generations are not really keen on the idea of relationships— specifically, intimate ones.
It may have started with the influx of “herbivore men” into the population. Herbivore men are men typically 20-30 years old who are not interested in having girlfriends or fitting into the masculine stereotypes. The sudden disappearance of the manly man, the kind of men women typically prefer in Japan, is a large component as to why women have stopped wanting to have children. In a CNN article, a journalist interviewed a woman in Japan who said, “We like manly men. We are not interested in those boys — at all.” Another woman pronounced, “Herbivorous boys are fragile, do not have a stocky body — skinny.”
Another factor of the dropping population is the new economic freedom of women. Especially since a majority of men have lost their utility for their female partners, women are free to pursue other aspects of their lives. Having success in the workplace has taken precedence over settling down and having children. For many women, the world of dating and relationships has been virtually eliminated, leaving more time to climb the corporate ladder and thus, earn more. With their ample amount of money, Japanese women can now be completely self-sufficient, a luxury many women cannot afford in the rest of the world. Japanese women can pay for their nice apartments, all of their necessities, and still have money left over for shopping. With all of their economic success, these women find the thought of giving up their jobs and economic freedom to marry a man undesirable. Consequently, Japan’s population is about 16.5 million, but is dropping by one every 100 seconds.
What does this mean overall? In many first world countries, women still find themselves stuck at home raising kids when they want to be out in the workforce, pursuing their passions. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, women are only working, and thus putting their population at risk of extinction.
So does this all mean that women should be forced into economic dependence on men just so that the human population doesn’t plummet into oblivion?
Of course not.
We are not going to struggle eternally with this tug-of-war between women’s economic freedom and healthy population growth. Some countries such as Iceland and Sweden have already found happy mediums; creating friendly environments for working mothers.
Nevertheless, the situation in Japan is certainly an interesting one to ponder since it is so incredibly unique. Will Japanese women sacrifice their cherished lifestyles to save their nation? According to research, we may find out in just several decades.
Sources and Resources: This article by CNN gives more in depth statistics about Japan’s decreasing population. ABC News’ article also provides additional information about the alarming birthrate. This op-ed in The Japan Times gives a very interesting look into the minds of the younger Japanese generation, and specifically, why they are so reluctant to get married and reproduce.