According to the Washington Post of September 26, Japan's government has been paying more attention to the nation’s fertility rate, which influences the country's economic development.
The coastal region of Fukui has Japan's biggest share of dual-income households, its highest ratio of working women and its lowest unemployment. What it doesn't have is enough babies.
So the prefectural government recently started the Fukui Marriage-Hunting Cafe, a Web site for singles, to help stem the falling birthrate - which is damaging the economy. As an added incentive, couples who agree to marry will get cash or gifts.
Japan's fertility rate has dropped to 1.34 children per woman, shrinking the pool of workers and consumers, and increasing the burden on younger employees to pay for an aging population.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that the number of working-age Japanese will drop to 81 million this year, compared with the peak of 87 million in 1995. The average number of children that Japanese women have compares with Canada's 1.6 and France's 2, according to the World Bank. The 2.1 rate in the US is considered the minimum for a developed nation to maintain a constant population.
Key to boosting the birthrate is getting couples to marry. Three-fourths of the decline in Japan's fertility rate between 1975 and 2005 can be explained by more women delaying or forgoing marriage, according to Miho Iwasawa, a researcher at the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo.
Census data show that 32 percent of women aged 30 to 34 were unwed in 2005, more than twice the percentage 15 years earlier.
The Democratic Party of Japan came to power last year promising to lighten the burden of rearing children. Families began receiving monthly allowances of $150 a child this fiscal year and can now send their children to public high school for free. Prime Minister Naoto Kan appointed Koichiro Gemba to a cabinet-level post to counter the declining birthrate. Kan had also pushed his staff to leave work at 6 pm for weekday dates.
Even so, national and local governments need to reach the unmarried, whose rising proportion in the country is the biggest factor behind the shortage of children, said Shigeki Matsuda, a sociologist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo.
2010-09-29 22:31 编辑：kuaileyingyu
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