In India, the adage ''bacche Do he acche'' (only having two kids in good) is being used to tell the people that less children means a brighter future for the family. But, in other part of the world, like Japan, and now even China, the situation is exactly opposite. Here, the governments are requesting people to marry and reproduce children, but the population is just not interested .
What's the issue? A population decline because of low child birth has been badly affecting Japan for quite some time now. Japan is facing the same issue which China faced few years back: a rapidly declining population. As China's one child policy severely affected its population, it rolled back the law. Now Japan is facing the same problem.
Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and its Ministry of Health said that it recorded fewer than 800,000 births in 2022, lowest since 1989.
As per the data, Japan's population can dip from 125 million at present to 88 million in 2065. The current birth rate in Japan is 1.34 ((average number of children a woman has in her lifetime) below the necessary 2.07.
PM Fumio Kishida expresses concern: Though this issue was in public domain for quite some time, it got a major push last month when Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at a policy address to lawmakers said that Japan must take urgent steps to address the country's declining birth rate, and that it was "now or never" for the world's oldest society.
"It is now or never when it comes to policies regarding births and child rearing, it is an issue that simply cannot wait any longer," Al Jazeera quoted Kishida as saying this at the event.
Kishida said that "it is an issue that cannot wait any longer." He said that his government will set up a new government agency in April 2023, to tackle this issue and that he would also submit plans to double the budget on child-related policies in June.
Japan had also recorded a record low number of births in 2021, with the latest data prompting that this was biggest ever natural decline in the population.
Why the birth rate is going down? In simple words, the reason birth rate in Japan is going down is because young people are not willing to marry and reproduce. They are focussed more on developing their careers and establishing themselves independently rather than settling for marriage and then reproducing children.
They also have a genuine reason as Japan is world's third most expensive country to raise a child after China and South Korea, despite infamously stagnant wages.
Moreover, Japanese women earned 21.1 per cent less than their male counterparts in 2021, nearly double the average gap in the developed economies.
Japan faces another peculiar problem: the connection between marriage and child reproduction. An academic Kozue Kojima in 2013 wrote in a paper that "When a single woman in Japan becomes pregnant, she only has two choices, having an abortion or entering (unwillingly) into a marriage. Choosing to have an illegitimate child is rarely seen as an option."
Women in Japan are marrying late and due to this the child births are being severely affected by it. According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the average age of mothers giving birth to their first child rose to 30.9 in 2021, the highest since the records are being kept from 1930.
The problem that's concerning young women in Japan is that getting a child would hamper their career, make them suffer financially and stop their career growth. This is why PM Kishida is coming up with incentives for married women.
Does it affect Japan's economy? Japan's economy has only gone down in the last few years. Since 1990, the country's GDP has slowed from 4.9% in 1990 to 0.3% in 2019, according to the World Bank.
The average annual household has also declined from 6.59 million yen ($50,000) in 1995 to 5.64 million yen ($43,300) in 2020, according to data from country's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
What else is Japan doing to tackle the declining population? Apart from the government coming up with incentives for married women, Japan has also been changing laws to allow more foreigners to live and work in the county along with their families.
The country, for years has been maintaining a very strict immigration policy, limiting the number of people able to settle in Japan. But now, it is changing its track.