Over the past several years, Japan's economists have devoted much discussion to the widening gap in living standards. Writing in biweekly magazine Sapio (Sept 30), economist Takashi Kadokura discusses how disparities between the haves and the have-nots are affecting people's sex lives.
Kadokura first cites a survey of 502 single women conducted by Match.com, an Internet matchmaking site, in which 46% of the respondents said they would expect a prospective mate to earn at least 4 million yen per year. (Another 29% gave 6 million yen as their cutoff point.)
Income and population demographics, however, clash head-on with these women's expectations. According to a 2007 survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on wage earners, only about 1.58 million single males in Japan earn more than 4 million yen annually. The 2005 census determined the population of unmarried women in the 25-34 age segment to be approximately 3.87 million, so by extrapolating these figures, Kadokura calculates that if 4 million yen is an absolute condition for marriage, then 2.28 million women -- just under 60% of the total -- are left with the choice of compromise or lifelong spinsterhood.
In 2005, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research released a nationwide survey in which it found that roughly one male out of every four in the 30-34 age segment had never experienced sexual intercourse.
Thus, while on the one hand, more teens receive their initiation to sex from an increasingly early age -- because among this group, hormonal urges outweigh economic considerations -- among those who miss out, however, growing numbers are destined to join the ranks of the working poor, becoming "middle-aged male virgins" who not only lack the means to conduct wholesome courtships, but who are also unable to afford the price of admission to a sex shop.
In his own survey of 300 single men via the Internet last year, Kadokura found that 73.9% of those in the lowest income bracket (under 2 million yen/year) were not dating at all, and 85.5% said they had never patronized a commercial sex establishment.
Interestingly, the respective figures for males in the 9 to 12 million yen income bracket were 33.3% and 37%, suggesting that while men on the lower rung of the economic ladder are hard up for girlfriends or marriage partners, the situation is also quite gloomy for those with very high incomes. Many high achievers, apparently, have the means to wed, but are too focused on their jobs, and too stressed out or physically exhausted from the demands of their work to enjoy a satisfying sex life, even when they can afford it.
For low-income households, the newly elected DPJ government's proposal to provide a "kodomo teate" subsidy to offspring may afford low-income couples with a possible solution. Certainly there's more to male-female relationships than just economics; but Kadokura concludes that to keep the "sex gap" from becoming further skewed, it may be necessary to rectify the widening income disparities, perhaps through such measures as wage controls or work sharing.© Japan Today