Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ya Gotta Wish 'Em Good Luck

The Abe Government is purportedly going to have a go at solving one the most vexing problems of the last 40 years: how to entice Japanese men and women to marry at younger ages and reproduce more frequently.
Govt to step up aid to lift low birthrate / Will help more people marry, have children

The Yomiuri Shimbun

In a bid to boost the nation's chronically low birthrate, the government will provide more support to encourage people to get married and have children, it was learned Tuesday.

The support will include assistance in finding marriage partners and homes, and in having and raising children.

The government will establish an expert task force next Wednesday that will work out concrete measures by May. These steps will be included in the government's basic policy on economic and fiscal reforms, which it plans to compile in June.

Among them, the government will implement measures that are urgently needed, starting in fiscal 2014, a government source said.

The task force will be chaired by Masako Mori, state minister for measures for the declining birthrate, and will comprise about 20 experts, including scholars, doctors, heads of local governments and corporate managers.

Three bills designed to support childbirth and child-rearing were passed into law last August. The bills center on improving child care services and preschool education.

However, the low birthrate is also the result of many people remaining single or delaying marriage, as well as their anxiety about having and raising children. The task force will discuss how such concerns can be dispelled...


The article reveals a number of interesting proposals. It also reveals some silly-sounding ones, such as increasing subsidies to local government programs helping residents find spouses -- programs that have had little measurable impact on marriage numbers so far.

The national government, however, is sailing against a global tide (Link). It could go full force pro-natalist, promulgating such measures as the ban on abortions Liberal Democratic Party General Council chair Noda Seiko (whose own desire to give birth led her to make icy bioethical decisions) seems to have proposed last month (Noda has made statements in support of such a ban in the past - Link - J). Without suppressing civil liberties or blowing out the budget (income tax holidays for child bearing, for example), the final package of government measures, none of which is likely to be tested for effectiveness prior to promulgation, will likely be more than just a lot of fumbling around in the dark.


Anonymous said...

Here's a novel idea: end the business model requiring employees to be at work more than 9 hours a day.

Anonymous said...

Ummm... Obviously more literal "fumbling around in the dark" is needed. But isn't this an urban problem? Plenty of people up north (as I read in recent 3.11 anniversary features) seem to be in their 20s with 3-4 kids... But if there are no jobs locally, most of those kids will head for the big city, where sooner or later, they will follow the urban model.

Anonymous said...

I'm willing to bet that "a lot of fumbling around in the dark" would do a lot to help address the low birthrate issue.

MTC said...

Anonymous #1 -

Having a more reasonable workday couldn't hurt.

Anonymous #2 and #3 -

I am greatly encouraged by readers taking advantage of my straight man set pieces.

adam said...

I have been waiting for years for Japan to get to this point (having a reasonable public dialogue). Albeit far away from real legislation a la Singapore (;page=0;query=DocId%3A3109a08f-24ea-4279-a262-d7d8b288f18c%20%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0) any movement is good movement.

Troy said...

If I were running Japan I'd build so much quality family housing in desirable areas that rents would go to zero.

One thing Japan has is a semi-decent track record on public housing, unlike the US.

Probably not as good as the nordic states, but not bad on balance.

Reducing the housing rent burden would be an immense lift on family finances.

Plus I've read that educational costs are utterly ridiculous in Japan.

MTC said...

Troy -

Desirable neighborhoods are all built up, with tax incentives for potential sellers to sit on land plots with buildings, even abandoned ones, upon them.