Japan has one of the world’s lowest birth rates, and young people in Japan seem to have stopped having… relationships:
The number of single people has reached a record high. A survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18–34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship, a rise of almost 10% from five years earlier. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all. (There are no figures for same-sex relationships.) Although there has long been a pragmatic separation of love and sex in Japan — a country mostly free of religious morals — sex fares no better. A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16–24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact”. More than a quarter of men felt the same way.
Marriage has become a minefield of unattractive choices. Japanese men have become less career-driven, and less solvent, as lifetime job security has waned. Japanese women have become more independent and ambitious. Yet conservative attitudes in the home and workplace persist. Japan’s punishing corporate world makes it almost impossible for women to combine a career and family, while children are unaffordable unless both parents work. Cohabiting or unmarried parenthood is still unusual, dogged by bureaucratic disapproval.
Clearly, the Guardian reminds us, the problem is bureaucratic disapproval of cohabitation or unmarried parenthood.
Japan is very modern, yet very, very foreign.