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Where are all the babies?

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By Japheth Worthy

Japan is finding itself in an unenviable position with its declining birthrate. It has been reported, with more frequency these days, that the Japanese population is getting older while fewer births are reported year after year. The government is trying to increase subsidies given to families, as well as lessen the burden of education costs. But there are other things that need to happen at the government level as well as societal changes to increase the birthrate and bring Japan back from the brink.

Japan should take a page from the Russians. Russia is another industrial country that finds itself in a similar predicament as Japan. In the Ulanovsk region, Sept 12 is an official holiday called “Day of Conception.” Basically, workers are sent home to their wives or husbands and told to procreate “for the good of your country.” This sounds silly on paper, but other regions have followed suit. Now the birthrates in those regions have steadily been increasing the past two years since the day was proclaimed. Japanese workers tend to work more days and longer hours thereby cutting into couples’ “interaction” time.

We as a society need to work together to solve this problem as well. Companies need to be less strict with their employees, especially female ones. If a woman is hired, takes maternity leave (if the company offers it) and returns to work, she often finds herself relegated to the company cellar: losing seniority. Granted this is not every company: many offer nice monetary rewards to their employees for giving birth – like my wife’s company – but it’s not happening at an acceptable rate.

The government has to invest in more daycare facilities. This is a tough one because of the vicious circle that exists in Japan: the government won’t put up new daycare centers because of the low birthrate and couples won’t have children due to the lack of daycare. The government should be the first to blink and tell families they are serious about the country’s birthrate, i.e., build more care centers for working parents.

The entertainment industry could also help with societal changes. There seem to be a lot of TV shows and books praising the single life and decrying the trials and tribulations of being a parent. I have no problem with the single life looked upon favorably but it has its faults too. There needs to be more on the joys of marriage and child-rearing. The burdens and heartaches shouldn’t be whitewashed but they cannot be presented as the only facet of raising a family.

© Japan Today

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102 Comments
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Like I said before, forget about rising GDPs or rising exports, etc, measures that Japan used to pride itself on. Just focus on being the best welfare state of the world.

Japan can set an example for the world on how it takes care of it's elderly.

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I think the best thing that Japan could do to combat this problem is to change its labor laws and culture. Companies shouldn't be able to force workers to work unpaid overtime - some Japanese people are working 12 or more hours per day and getting paid for 8. This extra time is taking away from family time.

Secondly, this tradition of going out and getting drunk with one's boss needs to go also. Lots of Japanese kids growing up without a father being involved in their lives; perhaps this is behind the trend of stories in the newspapers about effeminate young Japanese men.

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"There needs to be more on the joys of marriage and child-rearing."

What "joys" would those be then? In this country, the wife gives up her career, and the husband continues to work stupid amounts every day and going drinking every night, leaving the wife managing the marriage and child-rearing all by herself, on top of the mundane household chores which the husband expects to be undertaken. Most of the mothers i know, are miserable and lonely, and although their children do bring joy, they also are ALOT of work and a hard task to undertake alone.

Also anyone who has ever visited a maternity clinic or hospital must have noticed the MASSIVE 2 hour waits for routine check ups (WITH an appointment!) Surely the thing to do would be to get more gynocologists and pediatricians first, then get the birth rate up. Who is going to be medically attending to all these pregnant women i ask?!?

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Again, enough with the racist immigration laws and open the doors to third world natios in Africa, PI, Thailand, China and North Korea to come into Japan. Population problem would disappear much like it isn't a concern in the USA...

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Japan can set an example for the world on how it takes care of it's elderly.

Till then, I guess they'll have to take a lesson from Norway to get some practical advice.

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for god sake, start producing babies - anything is better than (scream) foreign immigrants!!!!

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Well put shufu. Raise women's salaries, make sure they won't be punished for having kids and taking their legal time off to raise them, build daycares, tell fathers AND mothers who work that they can't work too much overtime (just get rid of the mentality of hanging around late at night os worth something period), make schooling up to high school free... Not all that difficult but yet, they still won't do it. I honestly don't think they realise how serious this situation is - more so with a very old population.

I spoke to some of my university students about this - one guys solution "force all maried couples to have kids". Was stunned that someone so dumb was in university. He'll make a great boss with that attitiude.

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More babies?! yeah, that's the answer. We need another generation of people that can't find a job, much less a full-time job, with which to support themselves. Japan is shedding jobs like crazy, a trend that isn't going to change. Who is going to take care of these jobless societal leeches once they are out of high school? Japan painted itself into a corner long ago and now they're scrambling for an answer-- even a stupid 'answer' like having more babies.

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The only smart ones are those choosing NOT to have kids, or limit themselves to one.

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@ Intheknow - more to the point, who is going to take care of the elderly "leeches" when the population hits 70% over 60 in a few years time?

The people you know may be smart, but lets hope they are saving their money spent on NOT having kids for the care they are going to need in their future - the people with kids generally will save this cost later, as children step up to help their ailing parents.

Surely you cant stereotype a WHOLE generation of young people as jobless, statistics show that the vast majority of young people are in a job or education, and surely a part time job is better than no job at all?

Plus remember this is the country where working 35 hours a week is classified "part time."

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tell fathers AND mothers who work that they can't work too much overtime (just get rid of the mentality of hanging around late at night os worth something period)

Well, I'm sure that Japanese workers aren't going to tell their bosses (and lose their jobs in a bad economy) that they aren't going to put up with this anymore. Without the benefit of laws that are going to be enforced, people will get fired for wanting to go home at the end of the 8 hour day.

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Cost of living and attitude are the key, there is no lack of Japanese expats living here in the US, with families with more than 1 child. Schools, daycare and a reasonable working life. The only time I hear my Japanese friends start to fret and worry is when they are facing a transfer back to Japan.

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Long term, there is no single answer. I think it's going to be a combination of continuing to lower the cost of living and improve the living conditions, discouraging long working hours, better child care support, and increased immigration. And they probably need to encourage the use of English more to make it easier for foreigners to live here.

Japan continues to have a great many advantages: arguably the world's best infrastructure and a hardworking, educated, and honest work force.

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The government should be the first to blink and tell families they are serious about the country’s birthrate

Ishihara would be good at that, Tokyo could blink and lead the way

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Japan has been overpopulated for so long. Give it a chance to experience normal numbers of people in the cities! Cant you learnh to downsize your oversized economy for the welfare of a normal population?!

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So let me get this strait, the only reason they are freaking out is because old people will not have young people to take care of them, haha, to bad that life.

Considering how hard and wasteful it is to a person's life to have kids, I don't see why anyone without the right resources would do it. Unless of course you believe the Desert God is watching over you and is telling you to have more and more kids.

I see no issues with japan population so it will go down a bit, but that no reason to push on the present young generation to push out babies buy the dozen so that some old person can have a nurse maid. As for opening borders to whom? 3D world religions fanatics and create miles and miles of ghetto, I would say to the Japanese, just look at how bad parts of Europe are now.

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The world is overpopulated.

Every year, there is less drinkable water, less arable land, fewer fish in the ocean and more carbon in the atmosphere.

Depopulation is a good thing.

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"So let me get this strait, the only reason they are freaking out is because old people will not have young people to take care of them"

It's not just that. There also aren't enough people entering the workforce to fill positions requiring skilled workers. Which leads to a serious lag in productivity, not to mention innovation.

Also -- and this is probably the biggest issue -- there aren't enough workers paying into a taxation and revenue system to pay for a wide viariety of public services, from roads and police to fire departments and hospital services. No workers means no tax base. No taxes means a drop in quality of life standards across the board.

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"Depopulation is a good thing"

Will you volunteer to do your part for depopulation?

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Opening up day care centers is a snap. Costs are really low, as well as the overhead.

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Depopulation is a myth. The fact is the Earth can support several billion people; the only reason why we're all in such a mess is the imbalance and improper distribution of goods and services.

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The womenz are keeping all the babiez in their ovaries under lock and key!

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Change their immigration laws... allow more Africans, Philipino's, Thai, Chinese to come to Japan.. aw

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I can't see much changing myself. Hatoyama promised a lot, but is delivering nothing. Instead, taxes will go up to fund the elderly and the enormous deficit.

There are still plenty of unemployed people and the female workforce is vastly underutilised, so the argument that there is a labour shortage is false. To make good use of the available labour requires enforcement of the labour laws and an end to companies treating their staff like slaves or pieces of machinery.

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In short, its not desireable to raise a family in Japan for many people right now. Especially when there are numerous alternatives (especially for women) that were not so widely available before.

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It is good for Japan to reduce its population to an ecologically sustainable 90 million (hense, little immigration). They will adjust the economy to the new circumstances.

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We need to send Japan some spanishfly. -_-V

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I have to agree with the depopulation people, the slow lowering of the population is a positive thing for Japan. Society is already changing its habits and rightfully should. Now if there was only unification behind it.

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How about adopting some kids from Africa? There are around 20,000 a day dying of hunger or thirst so Japanese could have a few of them. Perhaps the government could subsidise this?

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yeah japan Today just feeds the propaganda with a title Where are all the babies? Though you got my attention. I dont think it has anything to do with the work and salaries and all that is suggested, especially to those who suggest depopulating, I can only say, drop dead then. Or those who are interested in elderly care-I will be sure to tell my kids to not look after you. Why cant the title be more propanganda-ish, like, Where is my man tonight? I need some satisfaction. ok. I really ought to think of something smarta** there but oh for time. Yeah I think the media needs some more like last nights programme showing natural birthing methods-here in Japan even! I definitely think a lot more should be said about the natural big orgasmic like natural occurence you can think of, providing you do the work that deserves it. Of course thats being general but certainly sounds a lot more of a sexy demand than some of you are making!

Ultimately, I think the people have the options, they just need the courage.

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Also, How about those in Africa looking after themselves, and you just help them do that? I think adoption runs from the problems. Why cant women look after their children? You all hopeless or something.

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I love the last paragraph! Yeah, let's get some Japanese idols to talk on TV about how great it is to have kids. That will surely solve all the problems!!

I see this issue as similar to global warming. It's something that is happening and instead of trying to deal with the reality of it and come up with future solutions, the government just tries to control everything. They know that they will have fewer people entering the workforce in coming years so they need to figure out what they are going to do about that.

Male and female roles are changing in Japan. Women are gradually getting more and more options and opportunities. No longer do all Japanese women see their future as having babies and being a housewife. And younger men don't want to work the crazy hours that older generations did. They want to have a life outside of their company.

Their won't be a shortage of workers if women were allowed to have the jobs that men typically hold. If women could see that they could have a career and a family, I'm sure many would grab at the chance. but here, it's still one or the other. If they decide to have babies, their career often goes down the tube.

Also I don't think that Japan values the kids that they do have. We hear about child abuse and child pornography every other day. Japan really has to do more for their children. Better protection under the laws and better education.

In short, how can Japan expect to have a future if half the population works like slaves and half the population are not given real work opportunities and to top it off, children are not seen as people at all but as things to fill empty desks in offices and to pay into the tax base.

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Im confused, isnt the role of mother a real job? I think there are options available to each of us, and we choose with what we have. I dont think one job(time spent) is better or replaceable with another, that is choice.

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I'm sure all those childless couples will have really interesting and fulfilling lives in their old age - I see how much joy my Grandmother takes out of her children and grandchildren, never mind that her husband is a miserable bastard - how boring and lack lustre for her if she had chosen never to have kids when younger! Having kids should be a priority for personal reasons as well, not just to top up the population.

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I agree, the USA has no problem with population, the blacks and mexicans take care of that part.. caucasians in the US, Russia and the Japanese dont have many babies.. open the doors Japan!

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Perspective - I agree 100% hence the comment about getting rid of that mentality. They need to actually enforce laws that protect expecting mothers. I personally know three women who were told their jobs would not be there for them when they got pregnant. When I pushed them to contact a lawyer they all said it was too much of a bother. Until laws of overtime, maternity.. are actually followed, nothing will change.

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We need to send Japan some spanishfly. -_-V

not the issue. the seeds are flying, just not at home. pink salon girls won't be getting pregnant

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I personally feel this article is a little out of date and I have personal experience that brings me to this conclusion.

My wife and I recently just had twins, premature by over 2 months so we spent a lot of time in the Hospital (1 month for her and 1 month now for the twins). During this time, we noticed that the hospital was over full of newborns. The Doctors told us over the last few months, they have seen a sharp rise in births, so much that it has tasked the nurses and staff overwhelmingly. In the week ours were born, 18 other babies and 5 other sets of twins were also born. It hasn't let up. The Doctors have been telling us they feel this might be the dawn of a new baby boom since it is not just isolated with Okinawa nor just our hospital, but they have reports of similar rises in births around Japan. It's good news in my opinion.

On a related note, I never realized how much money you MAKE having a baby here, it's been quiet a pleasent surprise. Even with all the problems and difficulties the wife and our premies have had, our insurance coupled with the Government incentives and family donations, it's been a rather fruitful time for us.

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If a woman is hired, takes maternity leave (if the company offers it) and returns to work, she often finds herself relegated to the company cellar: losing seniority.

My friend sued a major Japanese company for doing this and got her old job back, it is illegal and people need to know about it.

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@ Societymike ...

start of a baby boom or start of a doctor drought?

My understanding is not that more babies are being born necessarily, just there are less doctors available. The liability is too high for gynos in this country and they are all leaving the field.

And @ illsayit.... ORGASMIC???!?!?!! You have got to be joking ... I suppose you have never had to push one out then?

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I dont think any industrial countries are reproducing at a rate that even keeps their populations stable. The demographics are remorseless, just look at places like Italy and France. The modern welfare state is built on the assumption that the population will always grow. Otherwise, it will fail. Ever increasing numbers of elderly and frail will depend on fewer and fewer healthy workers to support them.

Making it attractive for women to stay home and raise families is the way to go. Tax breaks for kids, etc. Plus, people need to be encouraged to marry earlier- waiting until 30 or 35 really cuts down on the years of fertility available.

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Societymike...First congratulations on the birth of your twins!I gave birth to all three of my kids in the same hospital.The last pregnancy I noticed that the hospital was jammed packed at every check up with sometimes up to 3 hours spent waiting to see the Dr.(No fun being preggers with 3year old twins in tow,I can tell you!)It wasn't due to a baby boom. The big Red Cross hospital nearby had closed it's doors and so everyone had flooded over to the surrounding hospitals and the staff were just overwhelmed.Pregnant friends of mine are being told that they might have to book in early at some places as the hospital/clinic cannot guarantee a bed nearer the expected birth.After my two were born (yes,we're blessed with twins too!),we did get a nice cash payout from the local government as we are on the National Health plan but you are going to need every penny for later when your two are at youchien/school age.On another note,don't even get me on the daycare situation in our area or my husband who was told recently that it is expected that he will work nearly a 100hours overtime every month to keep his job! I adore my kids but being a mum here can be just sheer hard slog.There doesn't seem to be any concept of 'family'. The extended family has all but died out.No real support systems in place.And the ones that are,you have to know the right questions to ask or interrogate the city office staff using water torture to find out the information!

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Good point shufu, it could be a Doc. drought but it sure looked like there were a lot to me. We originally were in a really nice hospital from the start of her pregnancy, but since she started going into labor at 28 weeks, they had her moved to a hospital that has an NICU. There, was the busiest and I guess our Doc did seem a little over tasked.

Luckily, the wifes family is really involed with us and is offering a lot of support which will make it easier. Unfortunately, we will be moving to Tokyo within a month or so making the stress level go up and putting more work on the wife. We might end up getting a nanny or friend/family to live with us for a while since I will be working.

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Congratulations societymike! I have a 6 week old and its our third. Right now it feels like all the babies in Tokyo are round at our house!Mediocremummy is right - it is sheer hard slog here. But you know, a lot of Japanese women are to blame too, as well as the companies that relegate them to the cellar. Thye dont complain, and they dont rock the boat. What the companies are doing is illegal, they know it, the women know it, but they won`t do anything to change it.

@Shufu - totally with you. My personal opinion is that anyone who claims natural birth is like one giant orgasm is DEFINITELY on drugs of some sort but maybe not the type an OBGYN would prescribe!!!

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Some of the problem is education. If women are smart enough to not have to have a baby a year, and Japan's women are very smart, they'll have fewer babies. Another part is fear of the future. The government spending money it doesn't have on payments to families to have more kids would make me have LESS kids, I'd be so fearful of the future. Japan can't keep a PM in office without issue for more than 2 years (except Koizumi), so it doesn't have the leadership to solve these issues.

I'd better stop, I'm freaking myself out here.

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Japan is such a country where people feels easier to be with virtual things and electric toys rather than a flesh and blood. That problem getting deep rooted in the society and result= single life tendency.

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Japan, like most of Asia, is over-populated. It does not need immigration but better use of the labor resources it has. In 20 years time, Japan's aged population bulge will work it's way through and it will be sitting in the cat-bird seat while India and China (and even the U.S. at this rate) will still be unable to cope with populations fully 10-times too large to support on the water and food resources they have or are able to trade for.

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This is "old" news. You gotta make the babies and carry them to term to have babies. A lot of people are not doing that. End of story. Nice to see those magnifying spectacles in the post office, though . . . .

More dogs than babies these days and they get better treatment as well.

And insurance.

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"stanoue at 04:13 PM JST - 11th January I'm sure all those childless couples will have really interesting and fulfilling lives in their old age - I see how much joy my Grandmother takes out of her children and grandchildren, never mind that her husband is a miserable bastard - how boring and lack lustre for her if she had chosen never to have kids when younger! Having kids should be a priority for personal reasons as well, not just to top up the population." Just because your grandma enjoys her family doesn't mean that the entire world should follow suit. Enjoy having lots of kids!

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stanoue at 04:13 PM JST - 11th January I'm sure all those childless couples will have really interesting and fulfilling lives in their old age - I see how much joy my Grandmother takes out of her children and grandchildren, never mind that her husband is a miserable bastard - how boring and lack lustre for her if she had chosen never to have kids when younger! Having kids should be a priority for personal reasons as well, not just to top up the population.

Just because your grandma enjoys her family doesn't mean that the entire world should follow suit.

Enjoy having lots of kids!

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Making it attractive for women to stay home and raise families is the way to go. Tax breaks for kids, etc. Plus, people need to be encouraged to marry earlier- waiting until 30 or 35 really cuts down on the years of fertility available.

Why can't a man stay home and raise kids? Also, I don't understand why people suggest to force others to do as they think is correct for some unknown benefit. That's very narrow-minded.

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Enjoy your poor replacement rate.

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by 2050 40% of the country will be drawing their pension. So, i guess they will have to open the doors to the wierd foreign people so they can come in and pay the bills. Im waiting for that day because it will be sooooo funny.

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Yes, I would have expected Japanese to have more babies and larger famiies. Over here, we can't afford to have larger families right now.

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Get a couple of kids then you need a bigger flat. Want a flat with more than one or two rooms and you end up somewhere miles from town in somewhere like Saitama or Kanagawa. If you want a good quality of life, then you need to keep the number of kids to only one or at most two.

There's no-way I'm buying a house in this country.

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As long as Japan does not make the mistake of replacing the shrinking local population with immigrants from the muslim third world, Japan is actually in a good position.

While the short-sighted economists look at the shrinking pension base and production volume, these things are temporary. Further down the line, life will be better here, with less population density and more living space.

However, if they repeat Europes mistake of civilizational suicide, then good night Japan.

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Finally an article on this topic that has some good points.

Blame companies and overwork and idiotic policies. Blame sexism and the failure of society to value women beyond their looks. Blame media for promoting the wrong values. And blame the government for not solving all the problems that discourage people having children.

Now that we have pointed fingers at the culprits, when can we expect the government and society to reverse this problem?

Answer, maybe never.

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Companies need to be less strict with their employees, especially female ones.

What kind of ingorant comment is this?? Especially females?

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tkoind2 is right, the problems are obvious, as is the fact that Japan is permanently and utterly incapable of fixing it. The cultural inertia here is simply too overpowering, the lack of initiative and willingness to stand up for oneself pathetic and irreversible. Japan is a dead country walking.

The Japanese are sitting on the tracks and watching the train coming, noting the color of the train, how many cars it has, whether or not it's on time, lamenting the fact that the driver is not doing his job. They are remembering with teary eyes how they used to ride that train with their friends, being sad that they know it's not going to stop, and that they could get up and out of the way if they wanted to, but that no one actually told them to escape, so maybe it's not ok to move, but look at that cartoon character painted on the train, kawaiiii....SPLAT. No sense beating your head against a wall here, folks, Japan will not change a damn thing until absolute disaster hits. And then they will blame it on foreigners.

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WilliB-> Wheres your head at?

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I don't know... I'm really not convinced that maternity leave policies (or lack thereof) is a major factor in the population decline. If a man and a woman really want a baby, I don't think that this issue is stopping them from having one.

And I know I'll be castrated for saying this here, but I also think that lower seniority after maternity leave makes perfect sense. Like many other examples of so-called sexual and racial equality, our overly-liberal Western philosophies have been taken too much to the extreme on this one as well. If you're not at work for a year, why should you expect to come back and resume the same position and salary? Besides, a drop in seniority and pay is not going to make THAT much of a difference that people choose not to have babies... I know several women who have kept working after maternity leave with lower than previous pay.

If the issue is money, then from what I've seen, Japanese companies need to "trim the fat" and get rid of these "Retired OB's" to make room for the younger generation to run the companies and earn their keep (or enough to raise a family). With all due respect, I work in a company with COUNTLESS senior citizens who come to work everyday, sit at their window-view desks, and play solitaire on their PC ALL DAY. Do they need better pension? Better health care? Better housing? Better cars? NO, NO, NO, and NO. They all have earned enough money in their management positions to live comfortably until they're 90 as well as send their kids to school, so it's time for them to move over and let the younger generation do the same. Yet these companies still hold on to them in the name of loyalty, and... oh, "they would be bored if they sat at home all day."

I also don't believe in day care... ie. strangers raising my children, nor do I believe in dual income families until the kids are in school.

ONE OF THE PARENTS should be the one raising and spending most of their waking lives with the children at least until kindergarten or elementary school.

ONE OF THE PARENTS should be able to put in decent hours at work and support a family.

The result is that you would have both parents raising the child(ren) at all times (except for the 8 hours a day that one parent puts in at work).

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Go ahead and have multiple babies like your parents. The questions is who will take care of them financially? Japan may be rich as a country but not as individuals.

Even if both parents are working, in a country where most people are salarymen or salarywomen I doubt it is realistic to have multiple kids in many families.

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Tahoochi: I think that women now days can decide by themselves, to stay at home with baby, or to come back after giving a birth to a child to her working place. Both decisions should be respected and for both necessary infrastructure needs to be in place. Imho in a current financial // professional situation it is very hard to tell who “ should” and who “ could” to do what…

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Kronos had the only reasonable post so far. talk all you want about work conditions, leisure time and the average width of beds, it's the economy stupid. big talk, but I would like to hear from a few people out there with 2 kids in college, one in highschool, and a couple others following. Let me help you out. 70000 yen- food for family of 7 20000 yen- water 25000 yen- heat/cooler/electricity 60000 yen- college 50000 yen- high school 50000 yen- high school 20000 yen- uniforms etc and school trips for hs/jh/elementary school 200000 yen- 5 bedroom house in osaka/kyoto/tachikawa/chiba. x4 if you are in tokyo proper

just the big stuff is going to set you back about 4 or 5 thousand bucks US if you decide to have 4 kids. dont forget that insurance doesn't cover maternity in japan, kids of average intelligence will have to go to juku adding a couple hundred bucks a piece if you want them to go to high school or beyond. want a phone? cell phones so you can keep track of your kids? some life insurance? train fare? a car? you think your wife is going to have any time for you now? add 800 for adult entertainment. clothes? dont forget that insurance will be crazy since you make all that money and your daycare will be 6 hundred a month per youngun ; ) the list goes on and on...

have 4 kids and prepare to see about 7 or 8 thousand a month disappear just to get by. dont even think about an overseas vacation. ever drop 10K US for a vacation? I have, needless to say, the kids dont see grandma too often ; ) the time to talk about having birthrates remain what they were, was before all the social engineering and keynesian geniuses created this runaway freight train.

japan has made their choice and it is probably not a bad one considering the social destruction that would occur with a major economic adjustment of enough magnitude to allow for the average family to have 3 kids. robots are the answer. robot factory workers, robot waitresses, robot teachers... center on technology, export it to the neighbors, provide managerial and information technology to boot and make sure all your medium skilled workers and below are foreign and make sure there are no real provisions for permanent residency so their retirement accounts can be absorbed and there should be enough to pay the pensions that will max in 25 years that williB forgot about in his utopian vision ; )

Tahoochi... let me know how that works out for you ; ) you must have a trust fund.

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The married people I know in Japan all have one kid and all struggle financially, despite the mother working part time. It's a heavily taxed country but where the hell it all goes is a mystery to me - the US/UK etc. spend 5-8% on their military spending but not Japan. Considering the vast workforce I can only suppose that some goes on paying off the national debt, some goes on corrupt practices, some on concreting over the country and so on. Wherever it goes, it doesn't seem to be a perfect system. On the upside, Japan is way overpopulated (the world already has 2 billion too many people in) so perhaps the Japanese are forward thinking enough to shrink down 10 million or so and make this tiny set of islands more pleasant to live in - imagine Tokyo with 1 million less people - what a pleasant thought that is... it's just that the short term problems will be how to pay for a top heavy system with too many old people and not enough workers. Immigration I'm afraid, but I won't be here long enough to see the Japanese writhing at the thought of that...

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Tahoochi, you are a fine example of the folks that seem to make the laws here. This is not the 1960's. Parents need to work to support their kids. If oen is supposed to stay home and raise kids in Japan it has to be the wife as the husband is the breadwinner. Women aren't willing to sit at home and throw away everything they worked for nowdays. The soon you and the Japanese government realise this, the sooner they can start to get themselves out of the mess they created.

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hmm.. out of all of our friends who are having or had children with this year or last, (12 different families) not ONE of them claimed the "economy" as a deciding factor. Sure, they mentioned it's state as far as the future, but not so much. Most everyone I know is optimistic about it getting better and not so much orried about being able to support their children.

hakujinsensei at 07:26 PM JST - 12th January dont forget that insurance doesn't cover maternity in japan,

Huh? Our insurance covered 100% of everything from her pregnancy to her 1 month hospital stay, to the births,(twins) to their 2 month stay in the NICU. Not one Yen coming from our pockets. We still get the Government incentives to boot. Once they come home, we get the nice new 40,000Yen a month per child for extra support.

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Rather than an annual "Day of Conception", how about a weekly one? Or even a daily "Hour of Conception"?!! I will do my best.

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Marushka: I never said women can't decide for themselves. I am saying that for the childrens' sake, there should be a time in their lives (specifically from age 0 to 5) where one parent stays home and raises them while the other one would have to work, as opposed to both parents working and the child being left at a daycare. We actually have a woman at our company taking maternity leave for a year, then her husband (who works for a different company) is taking maternity leave for the following year. I am saying THAT is what government/companies should be supporting, not more daycares like the guy who wrote this article says.

Hakujinsensei: My only trust fund consisted of saving money like a madman from age 20 to 32, getting married and having kids by age 35.

Tmarie: I KNOW parents need to work to support their families these days, but I'm questioning whether it has to be that way. Wouldn't it be nice if companies/government cooperated to cut costs and pay more to the next generation of workers trying to support their young families (for example, the example I mentioned in my original post). In addition, my own family will be a double income family as soon as our last child has started going to school and there are no kids to look after at home during the day anymore.

There are so many costs nowadays which never existed in past generations of parenthood. Having kids takes a lot more planning on the parents part these days than it did decades ago. With that said though, as Societymike points out, I'm starting to question if it is really the cause of the declining population?

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The obvious answer to this problem is make more babies.Can't be hard to do with a boy teen and a girl teen. Duhh

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Great article. In any case, there's many reasons for population decline and some of them are not in any person's control.

Japan - and most countries - would be a much better place if they had fewer people crowding their cities and consuming resources. It's not like population decline will continue indefinitely, because it actually solves all the original problems in question. Countries like China even limit population on purpose, and while their methods are unjust the goal of preventing overpopulation itself is logical.

The one and only real reason any government wants a rising population is to pay for a ponzi scheme pension system that requires on more and more people paying benefits to the elderly. Which Japan and the US have. That's the only reason.

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Japan doesn't need more babies, it is over populated and all the people I've talked to think exactly that. Of course the declining population is going to leave a big burdon on the young ones, as they have to pay for the elderly's health care, so the government should focus on supporting that. If they want to maintain current population levels, immigration will have to go through the roof, and we all know that that won't be happening in the near future.

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Tahoochi: quote am saying that for the childrens' sake, there should be a time in their lives (specifically from age 0 to 5) where one parent stays home and raises them while the other one would have to work, as opposed to both parents working and the child being left at a daycare. We actually have a woman at our company taking maternity leave for a year, then her husband (who works for a different company) is taking maternity leave for the following year. I am saying THAT is what government/companies should be supporting, not more daycares like the guy who wrote this article says. unquote

Well, this is your point of view which I do respect, but I think that for parents // single mothers etc who want still to do their career and have a child, day care system should be in place. Myself I went to day care as both my parents were working at that time, I really loved it.

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Japan is not an over populated country. It has some more that 800 people per square mile. Think about India, despite being a large country it has more than 900 people per square mile. But the country is not facing any aging population problem rather having young human resources that is driving the economy. Being annoyed with the daily rush you can't blame the productive population who is fueling the country. Only Tokyo is over populated like any other mega city. A foreigner who passes whole life in Tokyo sees Japan as Tokyo only country. Go to other prefectures and feel the difference.

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****hakujinsensei at 07:26 PM JST - 12th January dont forget that insurance doesn't cover maternity in japan,

Huh? Our insurance covered 100% of everything from her pregnancy to her 1 month hospital stay, to the births,(twins) to their 2 month stay in the NICU. Not one Yen coming from our pockets. We still get the Government incentives to boot. Once they come home, we get the nice new 40,000Yen a month per child for extra support.

Insurance covers the birth but it certainly doesn't pay any salary to women who have lost their jobs because they got pregnant. THIS is the issue. Women are usually told to quit or have their hours reduced. In many places you can't get daycare of you work PT and many companies won't "allow" their FT women to take maternity leave and come back to the same job. This is one reason why I still haven't had kids here - I don't want to lose my job and my income and be stuck home all day because I can't get daycare so can't work FT. MANY Japanese women feel the same.

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Its very sad to see there are few children here in Japan. I dunno why so many people are so against having children nowadays, mankind would go extinct with this attitude scary.

Japan needs to be open to immigrants as well---I agree on that for sure.

We seriously need to figure out ways to increase the birth rate to maintain a good healthy population otherwise will end up with too many senior citizens.

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Young people are important to keep the economy afloat, pumping, dynamic and healthy. No sorry don't want a nation of mostly old people! I am very concerned about the future with so many people against having children, the extinction of mankind no thanks..I like to see my children in this society thank you very much.get a life fool, where the heck is your humanity? Good god you all depress me!

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drtoro:We are not against having children, we can not afford to loose our job and income exactly as per tmarie message above.

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I hope we can find a good healthy balance between life and work, also income---that's crucial I agree.

It's just really sad the birth rate is so low in Japan, and really worry about its future. It's like a ship sinking feeling...it's not funny.

Just want a well balanced society with a healthy number of seniors and a healthy number of young people. We need to work toward finding smart solutions, solutions that can really make our lives a better place. The government is not doing their job right, and it's going to take us as people to fix this problem too.

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some kind of new fandangled stork location radar system is in order. either that or a complete overhaul of the agricultural system to replace all those rice paddies with cabbage patches. before you know it there'll be kids all over the shop. wait and see, Ozawa will suggest same thing next week

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Additionally: Japan definitely needs to be good place to give birth and raise children. The father and the mother also need to have equal responsibility, if both have to work OK do what you gotta do. Since this is about another life, we need to think about this seriously and solutions are needed very badly. I just want a bright future for Japan and the world.

Daycare centers absolutely. Professional Children Hospitals, striking a right balance between work and life... The list goes on surely.

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And China, Southeast Asia even India are the ones with way too many people.

They don't have an aging society problem.

There needs to be a good healthy population (not too much, and not too little)---a good balance between old people and young people. The issue is there are more older people than younger, that's the bottom line. The fact there are few young people here is a major concern.

You need a decent population growth to keep the economy in good shape etc etc. Balance is key! That can't be that hard to do.

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Well, that was the problem which Singapore was facing. That's why they brought in foreigners into their country to encourage consumption and keep the economy grow.

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Absolutely GDP growth, good economic conditions, and exports are very important.国内総生産の成長はとても大事です! 出生率をさらに増加させることも大事です。 強い経済も  輸出入.

This is necessary for raising birthrate. Don't want to have a population of mostly senior citizens. God no! Foreigners are important We need to create a better life for ourselves and the world. Gotta get out of this recession state first off!

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Oh yes, in addition, job growth and opportunity are important too!

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If Japan opened the doors to immigration very soon the Japanese would become the minority in their own country. The cities would become very overpopulated and crime would soar. What is so wrong about a failing population? We will just have to solve our problems from within. Japan has been overpopulated for over 100 years. It has been the cause of a lot of problems. Yes the population decline should solve itself. There will be a few years of hardship followed by easier years.

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I think this is a Japanese problem, let them face it. Soon the check-out tax will be raised from 5% to 10% and wait more to come - let their youth pay the bill. In the meantime, if you are a smart guy, leave Japan ASAP. Instead of paying their retirement checks, pay yours at home.

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YuriOtani; Large scale immigration will not happen due to your countrymens racism, love.

Whilst you would prefer foreigners to stay away and bring crime and anarchy to "safety Japan", i hope you are prepared to work until your 80`s without a state pension, because my dear, that may well happen.

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ChrisBiggins my friend I wish for Japan to remain a Japanese country. What will happen to our culture if we are over run with immigrants? It will be gone like it never happened. The crime will occur from overcrowding not because they are non Japanese. I know the Ojisans once the gate is open they would want to replace the higher paid local population with less paid foreign labor. Trust Japanese business as far as I can toss a fully loaded 747-400ER!

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ChrisBiggins, as I said before, if you are smart, leave Japan ASAP - if you're there. Not only you will have to pay their retirement cheks, you will also have to live with narrow-minded J-people, as we see here.

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Still don't want a nation full of senior citizens...A population with the right healthy balance. I'm sorry but there are far too many old people here and this is no good at all, obviously you don't care about the economy sinking like a ship and you certainly don't care about the future. Shame

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I would go so far as to say that the lack of babies is due to this society and the bulling that goes on in it. People are unhappy, anything they do differently will be ridiculed, and their heads pounded down, like nails. Its a crying shame.

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As I said only the Japanese are absolute cause of their own problems, deterioration, headaches it's their God forsaken fault! Japanese are gonna have to learn it the hard way period.

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Sorry but I seriously want to have a better life and a better future thank you very much! I hope the Japanese can fix their mess.

Hope the East Asian Community idea will work out

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A well-balanced society is just necessary. Equal amount of young and old. Having fewer young people is going to really ruin everything and the country will turn into a mostly Koureisha society. Do not want that! That's just downright stupid.

I seriously want a better Japan without a doubt and a bright future.

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drtoro - you must speak Japanese well. All places have their good and bad. Since this is about babies, how about just enjoying the land, find a beautiful jbird and have a few children. Help the place out and enjoy life.

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thank you oneforall---you give me hope.

you have no idea how worried I am about Japan. I see a real cool Japan Examples: Shiodome, Tokyo Station, Shinkansen, One Seg TV service, Pagodas, cool electronics...

, but beneath all that a real mess and a disaster...it saddens me dude and I seriously want a bright future. I'm glad someone understands that.

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See foreigners have a very negative impression of Japan now, some even think Japan is just a hopeless case scenario. That worries me so.

I don't believe that is such. That's understandable people think Japan has lost completely its total mind and I really want to make that way better as best I can. I can't do this alone, you know the hammer and the nail routine, yeah its that deplorable and bad man.

Japan is like a Phoenix, I have hope.

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OK basically Japanese are at risk of being subjects of their demise because of the low birthrate issue, that's the honest reality. A reality that will only get worse if nothing is done about it.

The ship is sinking feeling is very very worrisome. Japan has got to quit being such a cookie cutter society as well.

Hope the East Asian Community idea will help, it is needed. Want China, Korea, and Japan to have the best future possible!

The Japanese need to wake up and fix their mess which they so far don't realize is rotting their very country from within..having too few young people will cripple this country. That's obvious for any country with facing the risk of an aging population.

I pray and hope for a better Japan, want a way better Japan and a better world.

I'm deeply concerned about Japan and know it can be way better than this

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don't worry. coming soon are blonde robots with blue eyes.

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You know you guys really see this like its some joke! Don't think you realize the importance of this issue at all! Robots are fine, but they should not be an excusable replacement for human beings!

This is not a joke! This is a very very serious problem. At least Marushka understands this better than you! She's at least not against children and foreigners. First I said don't want this nation to become mostly senior citizens. Also want Japan to be a much better nation and want a better world too! Having a healthy population of young people is very important Having a very low baby population is a serious issue and is a sad situation! I happen to like Japan..cheers to Japan! Japan has some of the hottest women who can make beautiful children...I hope to have a child and a family with that terrific Japanese women Peace

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Life shall never ever be a waste! Mottainai!  Human race shall not become extinct!Good God don’t be a bakamono!

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