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HOME  > Past issues  > 2015 June 10 - 16  > Create policies in the public interest for ending declining birthrate
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2015 June 10 - 16 [WELFARE]

Create policies in the public interest for ending declining birthrate

June 10, 2015
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The Health and Welfare Ministry recently announced that Japan’s birthrate decreased for the first time in nine years by 0.01 percentage points from the previous year to 1.42 in 2014 and that the number of newborns hit a record low of 1,003,532, a 50% drop over the past 40 years. A low birthrate is a serious problem. Nevertheless, the distortion in society in which young people, due to economic reasons, are unable to get married and have children despite their desire to do so has remained untouched. The government should take urgent and serious measures to correct the distortion.

The current birthrate in Japan (the estimated number of children a woman bears in her lifetime) falls far short not only of the 2.07 rate needed to keep Japan’s population stable but also of the 1.99 rate in France and 1.89 in Sweden.

In 2005, Japan’s total fertility rate marked a record low of 1.26. In the following year, the government whitepaper pointed to various problems lying behind the declining birthrate such as financial difficulties in entering into and keeping a stable marriage, future anxieties due to unstable employment, difficulties in balancing work and family life, and heavy financial burdens associated with child-rearing. Ten years have passed since then. However, those problems have remained unsolved and even worsened.

An increase in unstable, low-paying jobs drastically pushed down the annual earnings of workers in their 20s and 30s over the past decade. The marriage rate among men earning less than three million yen a year is three times lower than that among men with an annual income between three million yen and four million yen. Many full-time, regular workers are forced to work excessively long hours and have no time to spend with their families. The Abe administration is pushing ahead with bills to relax restrictions on the use of temporary workers and legalize overtime without pay. This will further increase the disposable use of young workers.

In addition, other obstacles such as the discriminatory treatment against women workers due to pregnancy or childbirth (so-called “maternity harassment”) and the shortage of authorized childcare centers are discouraging young people from getting married and having a family.

Japan’s shrinking population stems from an impasse caused by government policies and economic measures which highly prioritize the interests of large corporations over that of younger generations. The need is to change the pro-corporate policies to policies that will allow young people to achieve their hopes for marriage and raise a family.

Past related articles:
> Gov’t should create childrearing-friendly environment, not set national birthrate target [May 12, 2014]
> Gov’t data indicates contingent employment is obstacle to marriage [September 18, 2014]
> Gov’t report suggests low birthrate is due to unstable jobs and low income [June 26, 2013]
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