Japan’s government is worried. The population currently sits at 127 million, but with the largest proportion of over-65s in the world, they project that the population will have shrunk by 40 million by 2060. This does not bode well for their ailing economy, either, with those same estimates showing that 40% of that 87 million will be 65 or older. A social security disaster looms, not to mention an amplification of Japan’s current struggles to remain competitive with its larger neighbours China, the US, and even South Korea.
Why has this been happening? A steady decline in birth rate since WWII, coupled with bubble and bust economics, and most critically an extremely sexually repressed society. Fewer and fewer young men and women are getting married – the age Japanese men lose their virginity continues to rise, as the act of approaching a woman is seen as shameful and taboo. Sex continues to take place (even at increased rates) in love hotels and the like – but the lack of couples reproducing and families growing continues to be a source of real concern.
What can be done? Japan’s government has reluctantly begun to reduce the strictness of its immigration laws, hoping to encourage annual immigration of around 200,000 – the population from 2012 to 2013 declined by about 250,000. A small boost in the birth rate coupled with this level of immigration should be enough to resolve the issue.
The problem is encouraging Japanese people to have children. Sekkusu Shinai Shokogun – celibacy syndrome – is a very real issue. 25% of men and 45% of women aged 16-24 have admitted to not looking for sex. In 2005, 60% of women and 72% of men were surveyed as never having been married. Raising a child out of a family is impractical for economic reasons and socially taboo – especially if one is raising that child alone. With arranged marriages no longer being commonplace, many men simply do not know how to approach women – the hikikomori (social recluses) constitute over a million young men in Japan.
If Japan’s youth do not break their cultural and social barriers regarding sex, the population will only suffer as a result – leading to an economic crisis and downward spiral they perhaps never will recover from.