Monday, December 06, 2004

Japanese government wants more babies

As hard as it is to believe, Japan is worried about its dwindling population. It currently has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. The decline in Japan's birth rate is so severe they have invented a word for it - 'shoshika', meaning a society without children.

Unless women here start having more babies, the population in Japan is expected to shrink more than 20% by the middle of this century. Nearly half would be elderly, placing impossible burdens on the health and pension systems. -BBC News

While it seems to me that every third woman in Tokyo is either pregnant or pushing a stroller, apparently this is not enough to replace the dwindling population.

According to this morning's Christian Science Monitor, another troubling trend is that educated, career-driven Japanese women do not want Japanese husbands. They're far more interested in marrying American or European men because they believe they're more likely to be treated respectfully, maintain their careers, and have more help at home.

In Japanese culture, women are expected to forego their career once they marry. Even if they manage to keep their jobs, they must be home before their husbands and carry the burden of all housework and childcare. Often, they're also expected to care for their husband's aging parents. With this load to carry, it's no wonder Japanese women prefer marrying Western men.

So, what are Japanese men going to do about this? Will it be possible for them to change enough to woo back Japanese women? In a society where change is measured in centuries rather than decades, it will be interesting to see how quickly this culture can change if they expect to save themselves--quite literally!

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