Every five years the Japanese government’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research conducts a survey on attitudes about marriage and having children. The most recent study’s results have just been released and enthusiasm for both of those family-forming activities has cooled compared to the last iteration.
Responses were collected from 7,862 single men and women between the ages of 18 and 34. When asked how they feel about the idea of getting married, 17.3 percent of the men and 14.6 percent of the women replied “I have no intention of ever getting married,” increases of 5.3 and 6.6 percent over the previous poll. On the other end of the spectrum, 81.4 percent of the men and 84.3 percent of the women said “I want to get married someday,” both of which were the lowest numbers since the survey was first conducted in 1982.
The most dramatic change, though, came when respondents were asked about having kids after marriage. 55 percent of the men and 36.6 percent of the women felt that “If you get married, you should then have kids,” representing a drop of approximately 20 percent for men and roughly 30 percent for women compared to just five years ago. Even those who do want kids want fewer of them. When participants who do have a romantic partner they’re thinking about marrying were asked how many children they hope to have, the average for men was 1.91, down from 1.82 in last study, and for women it was 1.79, down from 2.02, marking the first time in the survey’s history for the average desired number of children to fall below 2.
▼ Too many kids, according to the survey average
Though marriages and births are both on continuing downward trends in Japan, there are a couple of things worth bearing in mind that make the results a little more complex than just “Japanese people aren’t interested in romance and making babies.” As mentioned above, the survey is conducted once every five years, but the results being announced now were actually collected in 2021, the first full year of the pandemic in Japan. Considering that vaccines for the coronavirus didn’t become widely available until the second half of 2021, it’s understandable that even fewer people than usual would have been fantasizing about getting married, seeing as how many single people’s love lives were put on hold during extensive social distancing initiatives.
The pandemic likely had a similar effect on the prospect of having kids, and especially the idea of having many kids. Japanese homes tend to be small, without a whole lot of extra space designed into the floor plan. In 2021, working from home had become the new normal for many people, but the sudden shift meant that many people’s “offices” were a makeshift workspace crammed into a corner of their living room. With space in Japanese homes at even more of a premium than usual, the idea of adding multiple kids into the picture, perhaps attending class remotely from home themselves, probably wasn’t particularly appealing, or at least was less appealing than it will be once families return to a lifestyle where not everyone is inside the home almost all day long.
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