Here are some interesting points regarding social attitudes and demographics from a Guardian article by Abigail Haworth: Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?
- A survey this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 "were not interested in or despised sexual contact". More than a quarter of men felt the same way.
- Population of 126 million has been shrinking for the past decade
- Population projected to plunge additional one-third by 2060
- Survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship
- Fewer babies were born in 2012 than any year on record.
- Of the estimated 13 million unmarried people in Japan who currently live with their parents, around three million are over the age of 35.
- Married working women are sometimes demonised as oniyome, or "devil wives".
- Japan's Institute of Population and Social Security reports an astonishing 90% of young women believe that staying single is "preferable to what they imagine marriage to be like".
Lets dive into the article for some interesting comments and interviews.
Ai Aoyama is a sex and relationship counsellor who works out of her narrow three-story home on a Tokyo back street. Aoyama, 52, is trying to cure what Japan's media calls sekkusu shinai shokogun, or "celibacy syndrome". Japan's under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren't even dating, and increasing numbers can't be bothered with sex.That's a reasonably lengthy set of clips but there is much more in the article that merits a closer look.
Japan's under-40s won't go forth and multiply out of duty, as postwar generations did. The country is undergoing major social transition after 20 years of economic stagnation. It is also battling against the effects on its already nuclear-destruction-scarred psyche of 2011's earthquake, tsunami and radioactive meltdown. There is no going back. "Both men and women say to me they don't see the point of love. They don't believe it can lead anywhere," says Aoyama. "Relationships have become too hard."
Japan's punishing corporate world makes it almost impossible for women to combine a career and family, while children are unaffordable unless both parents work. Cohabiting or unmarried parenthood is still unusual, dogged by bureaucratic disapproval.
Aoyama says the sexes, especially in Japan's giant cities, are "spiralling away from each other". Lacking long-term shared goals, many are turning to what she terms "Pot Noodle love" – easy or instant gratification, in the form of casual sex, short-term trysts and the usual technological suspects: online porn, virtual-reality "girlfriends", anime cartoons. Or else they're opting out altogether and replacing love and sex with other urban pastimes.
Some of Aoyama's clients are among the small minority who have taken social withdrawal to a pathological extreme. They are recovering hikikomori ("shut-ins" or recluses) taking the first steps to rejoining the outside world, otaku (geeks), and long-term parasaito shingurus (parasite singles) who have reached their mid-30s without managing to move out of home. (Of the estimated 13 million unmarried people in Japan who currently live with their parents, around three million are over the age of 35.) "A few people can't relate to the opposite sex physically or in any other way. They flinch if I touch them," she says. "Most are men, but I'm starting to see more women."
Aoyama cites one man in his early 30s, a virgin, who can't get sexually aroused unless he watches female robots on a game similar to Power Rangers.
"Marriage is a woman's grave," goes an old Japanese saying that refers to wives being ignored in favour of mistresses. For Japanese women today, marriage is the grave of their hard-won careers.
I meet Eri Tomita, 32, over Saturday morning coffee in the smart Tokyo district of Ebisu. Tomita has a job she loves in the human resources department of a French-owned bank. A fluent French speaker with two university degrees, she avoids romantic attachments so she can focus on work. "A boyfriend proposed to me three years ago. I turned him down when I realised I cared more about my job. After that, I lost interest in dating. It became awkward when the question of the future came up."
Prime minister Shinzo Abe recently trumpeted long-overdue plans to increase female economic participation by improving conditions and daycare, but Tomita says things would have to improve "dramatically" to compel her to become a working wife and mother. "I have a great life. I go out with my girl friends – career women like me – to French and Italian restaurants. I buy stylish clothes and go on nice holidays. I love my independence."
Romantic commitment seems to represent burden and drudgery, from the exorbitant costs of buying property in Japan to the uncertain expectations of a spouse and in-laws. And the centuries-old belief that the purpose of marriage is to produce children endures. Japan's Institute of Population and Social Security reports an astonishing 90% of young women believe that staying single is "preferable to what they imagine marriage to be like".
The sense of crushing obligation affects men just as much. Satoru Kishino, 31, belongs to a large tribe of men under 40 who are engaging in a kind of passive rebellion against traditional Japanese masculinity.
"It's too troublesome," says Kishino, when I ask why he's not interested in having a girlfriend. "I don't earn a huge salary to go on dates and I don't want the responsibility of a woman hoping it might lead to marriage."
Japanese-American author Roland Kelts, who writes about Japan's youth, says it's inevitable that the future of Japanese relationships will be largely technology driven. "Japan has developed incredibly sophisticated virtual worlds and online communication systems. Its smart phone apps are the world's most imaginative." Kelts says the need to escape into private, virtual worlds in Japan stems from the fact that it's an overcrowded nation with limited physical space. But he also believes the rest of the world is not far behind.
Those wondering why prime minister Abe is having such a hard time stimulating inflation can now stop wondering.
Until Japanese attitudes towards child-bearing, jobs, and relationships change, Abe will continue to struggle.
Abe seeks to stimulate inflation, but that is likely to encourage more saving, not more spending.
With the bulk of Japanese pensions tied up in bonds yielding next to nothing, higher taxes and higher cost of goods and services will decrease demand from aging retirees.
In the US, student debt hinders family formation. Millions of young adults have moved back home because they do not have a job.
In Germany, free child-care is not enough to fix Germany’s falling birth rate dilemma
Germany has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe and it continued to decline between 2001 and 2011 despite Angela Merkel’s government spending a lot of money on subsidies promoting and helping families.
Attitudes in General
Here are some reasons behind the low birthrates: Lack of Jobs, Student Debt, Aging Parents, High-Priced Housing, Earthquakes, Nuclear Waste.
Some of the reasons for lower family formation are universal, others like nuclear waste are country specific.
Inflating money increases asset prices (until the bubbles pop) but that does not help those fresh out of college with no assets. Pumping up home prices helps banks stuck with housing inventory, but it hurts those seeking to buy a first-time home.
Easy money policy is to the benefit of those with first access to money: the banks and the already wealthy. Easy money is to the detriment of everyone else.
As income inequality soars, attitudes sour. As robots displace workers, attitudes sour. As taxes go up to support inane union pensions, attitudes sour. As politicians fight, attitudes sour.
Everything boils down to attitudes. Unfortunately, central bankers and politicians are making matters worse. Few see that now, but wait until the bubbles pop.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock