November 29th, 2011
05:12 AM GMT
Hong Kong (CNN) – From an economist’s point of view, the rallying cry to cure Japan’s ills the past two decades has often been, “Spend, Japan, spend!”
From a demographer’s point of view, the cry is more: “Procreate, Japan, procreate!”
A survey last week underscores the growing problems of the latter point.
The number of single men has reached a record high in the aging nation of 130 million, according to a survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
The number of single men aged 18 to 34 rose 9.2% from the previous survey in 2005. About 61% of unmarried adult men don’t have a girlfriend, while half the adult women surveyed don’t have a husband or a boyfriend. Worse still, 45% of the men and women who don’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse are not interested in finding one, either.
One in four unmarried men and women in their late 30s have never had sex, the survey found.
But is that really the case? In the survey, 90% of unmarried young Japanese women preferred to stay single.
That compares to a study earlier this year by Japan Family Planning Association that showed 36% of males aged 16 to 19 were “indifferent or averse” toward having sex, a 19% increase from a 2008 survey. Meanwhile, 59% of teenage females surveyed said they weren’t interested in sex, a nearly 12% increase in two years.
The statistics appear to back the anecdotal rise of the “herbivore men,” a term coined by author Maki Fukasawa in 2006 in a series of articles about marketing to a younger generation of Japanese men. "In Japan, sex is translated as 'relationship in flesh,'" Fukasawa told CNN in 2009, "so I named those boys 'herbivorous boys' since they are not interested in flesh."
This all points toward a demographic disaster for Japan, which has one of the lowest birthrates in the world: 1.34 children, below the 2.1 necessary for a stable replacement workforce, which Japan will increasingly need, as more than one-fifth of the population are above the age of 65.
The nation’s conservative attitudes toward migrant workers and strict emigration policy make it unlikely the world’s third largest economy will find a replacement workforce from abroad.
Three years ago, Japan’s largest business organization, Keidanren, told its 1,600 companies to allow more time for their married couples at home to help boost the nation’s flagging birth rate.
But the figures from this latest survey suggest that Japanese couples, alas, aren’t doing their homework.
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