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kuchikomi

Japan entering the age of living alone

41 Comments

From the extended family to the nuclear family in the 20th century; from the nuclear family to solitude in the 21st -- by 2030, reports Sapio (Oct 13-20), 37.4% of Japanese households will be single-occupant. As of now, single-occupant and family households (parents with children) are in rough balance. By 2030, the latter will have fallen far behind, to 21.9%. Two-person husband-and-wife households are projected to comprise 19.2%.

Why the dramatic rise of solitary living? It’s where numerous converging social trends seem to be pushing us, explains researcher Katsuhiko Fujimori in Sapio – fewer marriages, more divorces, fewer couples having fewer children, more grown children living far from their aging parents, and so on.

The question Fujimori poses is, what are the implications of vast numbers of people aging alone? It’s a problem no society has ever faced before. Japan, as the world’s most rapidly aging country, must stand at the vanguard, devise a solution, and show the rest of the world the way. The wait-and-see attitude it seems to be adopting will not be tenable for long.

The best short-term solution, for society as a whole if not necessarily for the individuals involved, would be for people to marry as a matter of course, as they used to. That sounds impossible but may not be, given polls that consistently show some 80% of single men and women in their 40s would marry “if they met the right partner.” Clearly, marriage still has appeal. It’s the “if” that’s the rub. Women, financially independent now as they were not in earlier times, no longer have to marry, and can hold out, indefinitely if necessary, for better terms. Men, too, for that matter, find that much of the sting has been removed from bachelor living – convenience store bentos make meals easy if not delectable, and loneliness can to some extent be beguiled online.

Fujimori points to three problems beyond those and similar day-to-day considerations. First, poverty. Astonishing as it would have seemed 30 years ago, Japan for many of its citizens is now a poor country. Married poverty is easier. The benefits of mutual encouragement aside, if you’re a poor couple, at least one of you is likely to be employed; you scrape by somehow. As an unemployed single, you face potentially dire straits.

Second, nursing care. Health ministry figures show that for 70% of care recipients, the caregiver is a family member. Japan’s care system is premised on family involvement. It is not set up to accommodate masses of family-less care-dependent people. And there is no sign of it being set up for it any time soon.

Third, aging singles tend to lose touch with the outside world, with all the psychological problems that invites. Stronger community ties are a must, says Fujimori. Once, such ties were spontaneous and natural. Now that they no longer are. What can be done to foster them?

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

41 Comments
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tax singles at a higher rate.

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tax singles at a higher rate.

Yeah great idea....

How about instead of punishing undesirable behavior, we instead reward those who choose to start families? More tax breaks for having children, enforcement of labor laws (unpaid and expected overtime, I'm looking at you), more vacation time. That would be a good start.

But this problem isn't just confined to Japan. Even in the States, you have to be rich, crazy, dumb, or a combination of those three to want to start a family. Poor, working class, and even lower middle class families can barely afford to have kids these days.

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A very insightful and sobering analysis of the demographic changes in Japan.

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sourpuss

tax singles at a higher rate

Rather - - - perhaps conversely, to give incentive for people to marry is to provide better tax benefits for married couples; and even more benefits for those who have children.

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The wait-and-see attitude it seems to be adopting

I think that we all know by now that that is all Japan is capable of and that that is not going to change in a hurry. This conversation is difficult. Lets talk about food...

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People complain about adult children continuing to live with their parents and be dependent on them...now we're complaining about them moving out and setting up on their own.

If you want people to marry and have families, then you have to give them the right incentives. Tax breaks for married couples is a start. You could also consider lowering health insurance and pension premiums for families. Since the next generation will be paying our pensions, either lower premiums or higher returns for those who contribute to the next generation by producing kids would be helpful.

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tax breaks for married couples is the same as higher tax breaks for singles.

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sorry, highet tax"rates" for singles.

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How better to control a society than by dividing it up into isolated individuals? I don't Orwell imagined that a society would evolve into legions of people living in crowded cities, yet entirely disconnected from each other.

Friendship becomes virtual. Family interaction only over distance if at all. Economic isolation means less options and less capacity to work for change. Empowerment declines and the role of media increases as the primary influence over people and how they view the world. Especially if that media is delivered over the systems that help empower the isolation.

We are seeing the creation of a non-social society. One with little or no social structure. In essence a collection of functional individuals disempowered and vulnerable to change. Thus highly pliable by media and economic durress.

At least the Matrix had people living in a fantacy of society.

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Agree with cleo.

I also agree that this is not just a Japan thing.

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Also agree with Cleo. You have to create merit to nuclear families. Tax breaks, social incentives and benefits all make sense.

But you also need to work to reverse social trends actively. People who are over worked and over stressed are not going to be out searching for Mr. or Mrs. right. Give people more time to build a social fabric that can enable people to meet and develop meaningful relationships and friendships. Work on labor laws to achieve this.

Then start work in the media to give people realistic expectations. Most of the single 30-40 year old women I know here are still waiting to meet Mr. Rich instead of Mr. Right. Most will end up alone if they don't change their unreasonable expectations. Expectations created and supported by media that does not reflect what society needs, but instead only cares about creating a desire for wealth and consumption.

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The wait-and-see attitude it seems to be adopting will not be tenable for long.

Waiting and seeing what happens is the plan for so many things

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People who are over worked and over stressed are not going to be out searching for Mr. or Mrs. right. Give people more time to build a social fabric that can enable people to meet and develop meaningful relationships and friendships. Work on labor laws to achieve this.

Yes.

(Though I hope they're searching for Miss or Ms Right, not Mrs....down that path lies Trouble!)

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Cleo. Come to think of it, the usual way of saying that is "I met Mr.Right." But never hear Miss or Mrs. Right. Good point. :)

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Do what makes you happy.

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Sadly, tkoind2 is probably right. I'm hoping to buck the trend by living in the same house with my kid and parents-in-law. 3 generations under one roof!

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bicultural-

i am envious because my parents live far from where we live and my husband's parents are not in japan.. i sometimes see little kids playing with their grandparents and it makes me envious.. i would love to have my kids play with their grandparents more often (more than one summer/ one christmas a year).

having grown up with my own grandparents, i have so many fond memories and learned so much from them.. i loved taking a nap with grandparents and loved talking a walk as a little girl.. i still love them and wish i could see my kids with their great grandparents more often.

it is funny about Mr. Right and Mrs/Miss Right.. I hope I am my hubby's Mrs. Right :)))))

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tax singles at a higher rate.

That won't produce more of anything except Tax Marriages. You marry someone for the tax break and then each of you continue to live in your own apartment and continue your own lives.

People who are over worked and over stressed are not going to be out searching for Mr. or Mrs. right. Give people more time to build a social fabric...

The generation that built Japan after the war didn't bother with any 'time to build a social fabric' and they were more than overworked and overstressed. Of course, they're the ones living alone now....

Men, too, for that matter, find that much of the sting has been removed from bachelor living – convenience store bentos make meals easy

I realize this is Japan but this stereotype of "if you have a pen!s you can't cook" should have died about 30 years ago. All of my male friends not only can cook but do on a daily basis as their wives also work. And plenty of single women can be seen buying bento for dinner...

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Some moronic things in the system should also change, for example the system should be more flexible towards concepts such as a couple can live together before marriage, or that the woman/fiance/wife works and has a decent income, etc. When me and my girlfriend moved together, there is a 審査 (inspection?) of the papers, and we had to say we are engaged and mention the date of the marriage (!) she also got an approval from her parents (and both of us are in our 30s). Moreover, the university I worked for used to pay me housing allowance, but because the house contract was on both our names and she also has an income, I was denied allowance, even if I brought proof that her company doesn't pay any allowance... I really don't feel motivated by the system...

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Get SKYPE and you are never alone. Also go outside instead of sitting and watching the tube. Being alone is nice.

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Borscht: I hate to say it, but a great deal of my male students can't cook anything more complicated than curry or spaghetti. If that. I even had one young (college aged) guy tell me there was no reason for him to learn how to cook--that was his future wife's job.

Maybe the system needs to adapt to be more convenient for singles rather than starting to punish them. Coercing people to get married is going to produce a lot of very unhappy people. Can't we just accept that now that marriage is more of a choice than it has been in the past, maybe people will realize it's not all it's cracked up to be and choose not to pair off?

For instance, I am happiest living alone. Why should I be punished for wanting to be happy? And who are you (or the government) to say how I should be happy?

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Have kids regardless of income or tax issues because if you raise them right, you'll be well off when your old.

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High time for more lovey Philippina nurses in Japan ;)

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tax singles at a higher rate. Yeah great idea....

He's not called sourpuss for nothing!

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Aging society is important. We need to depopulate the earth.

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At least this is one plus for the construction industry.

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exciting !!!!

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I tend to agree with Monkeyz. There is nothing wrong with living alone, especially if you are young. One of the most social friends I have lives by herself. She has tons of friends and contacts and goes out a lot. The problem is if you are old and you need assistance and/or companionship or if you are completely withdrawn from society.

Getting married is not necessarily a solution and people do feel they have more options these days. More young people are not in a rush to get married and I think many are also not willing to give up things to have kids. A lot of retired couples are getting divorced and end up living on their own. Again, not a problem if you have friends and other family members you can count on.

The real issue is how to get people out of their homes (and out of the office) so they can socialize rather than sitting at home in front of the TV or computer or game system.

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Living alone is not healthy, if you have a happy family, your meals, your everything will always be nicer, so this living alone trend, for me, as a Mexican just sounds too sad, too lonely. I do not really think all Japanese like this, especially in the country sides of Japan, where you still have 3 or 4 generations living under the same roof. Big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, so many people, but deep inside, these millions of people are lonely.

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Eyeblack - the first sensible comment!

FAR too many people on this earth - no need to encourage more breeding atall!!

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Poverty, has alot to do with it. Plus people are too selfish.

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I like living alone. I can cook / clean / have my own space / not have to deal with anyone's crap / and do whatever I please. The only reason I would ever consider getting married is either for tax benefits or to have children.

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oh, please. singles refuse to grow up. that's the problem. they're immature.

I think the new term is "emerging adult." iow, permanent adolescence.

looking forward to some flames...

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"If that. I even had one young (college aged) guy tell me there was no reason for him to learn how to cook--that was his future wife's job."

Now there is an optimist. Someone should give him an odd shaped medal in recognition of his bold life plan.

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I like living alone. I can cook / clean / have my own space / not have to deal with anyone's crap / and do whatever I please. The only reason I would ever consider getting married is either for tax benefits or to have children.

I liked my freedom when I lived alone, but I love having my family and love going home in the end of the day to see my family. I can cook/clean FOR them and WITH them, I don't mind having to deal with their cr@p because I love them and we're a family.. When I want my own space, I tell my husband that I need my space and I am usually left alone, when he needs some time alone, I'll leave him alone and he can go out and hang out with his friends, that's totally fine with me..

I didn't make a family to make me happy, but as a result of having my own family, I feel happier.

I guess everyone is different and people who want to be alone should be left alone until the person feels like he/she wants to be with someone else.. I don't think there's any correct answer to whether to have a family or not, but I am personally happy that I am with my fam :)

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living on your own can be good for some people,especially some of these japanese who have lived at home for most of their lives...having mom and dad still doing everything for you short of wiping your ass can turn people into lazy,helpless and immature individuals.thats why married life for some of these is too much of a shock to the system...how can they be expected to look after kids or a partner if they cant look after themselves?

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judderman, its a problem everywhere. in fact, i imagine it being rampant among jt posters too. not just Japanese.

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Living alone is awesome for me. Having a great and busy social life in Tokyo left me wanting to retreat to the comfort of me and my own space. It is different for everyone. I was lucky when I was younger. I was a good looking 3 sport athlete who was well built and had endless amounts of social and dating fun. But that did not translate to me wanting to get hitched or move in with someone. I did have room mates at times and have some short term living together situations with girlfriends. But not everyone needs someone to be there for meals and the like. There are actually some of us who prefer doing it alone. I have so many married friends and divorced friends and have dinner weekly with others. It just depends on your lifestyle. Waking up with someone who makes you breakfast is cool sometimes.

But remember that I am a westerner who did all of this in Japan. Many of my japanese friends envy those who can be out alone and others think it's no good. It is cultural. In Thailand they can't comprehend being alone and in Mexico where I have travelled among other places it is not the desired norm among most. In Vietnam they look down on a man over 30 with no wife. Time will adjust many to new lifstyles with a decreasing population. maybe there will be more space?

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I for one don't want to live alone, but until my Love agrees to live together I have no choice but to wait. It's a very long, very lonely wait. I'm sure there are many others who want to live with their partners that feel the same way.

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I have mixed feelings on this, on one hand you have the concept of "Economies of Scale" where living together allows you to pool your assets together and work as one supposedly working together for a common goal. This in itself is beautiful if you have chosen the spouse or significant other that complements you. I have seen that with my two Japanese friends and I envy them for that, however finding that significant other is like finding a needle in a haystack leading most people to get sick on the amount of hay they have to eat before the finally get down to that needle so living alone in that scenario is awesome. The moral of the story is not to live together just because someone says you should, do it when it feels right.

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Living alone is good when you are young but later on in life it becomes very unhealthy.

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