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Sign In Forgot password? Don't have an account? Shortages and the repatriation from overseas of millions of demobilized troops were additional concerns. Curbing population growth that at the peak of the baby boom had reached a startling rate of 5 per cent in therefore seemed a matter of sustaining tolerable living conditions. Reducing marital fertility was seen as the only viable measure to accomplish that. Sanjiseigen thus became official policy. Following the advice of US demographers Warren S.

Thompson and Pascal K. With a change of the Drug Law that made contraception legal and more easily available, and a Cabinet Decision regarding Popularization of Family Planning, a new cycle of reproductive control began in Japan,2 welcomed by many feminists who considered family planning a means of liberation from the confines of domestic duties. Whether these measures caused, or were just conducive to, the birth-rate decline that soon followed is hard to ascertain. According to one interpretation, it continued the modern demographic transition that began in the late nineteenth century but was interrupted by World War II Mosk, The fact is that as of the birth rate fell almost continuously, recovering only slightly in the early s as an echo of the baby boom.

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From 2,, in the number of live births fell to 1,, in with no reversal of the trend in sight. How things have changed.


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Quite the contrary. Extremely low total fertility rates, 1. In , 53 per cent of all households were households with children younger than By , this percentage had dropped to Causes of fertility decline This question is much harder than may seem at first glance, although some scholars think they know the answer.

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Many of his fellow economists concur, for the theory of the demographic transition stipulates that lowered mortality and lowered fertility are the products of economic development. Yet it is unclear if fertility declined in response to economic conditions. The The lonely child 39 baby boom, which occurred at a time of economic hardship, lends little credence to this assumption.

Other economists therefore concede that the issue is complex and that a multiplicity of factors and correlations has to be taken into account. As Matsutani and Fujimasa have pointed out, we still do not fully understand why the birth-rate declines when population ageing occurs. Why is it that as life expectancy rises, fertility declines? This is the great demographic puzzle. Is it possible to identify the external factors, such as technology and hygiene, which act on both variables, or is the assumption of a self-adjusting equilibrium-seeking interdependent system a more promising framework for analyzing fertility, as, for example, Hirschman has suggested?

The issue is not just of theoretical interest, for in the absence of a clear understanding of how the system works interventions may not have the desired effect. If we consider fertility dynamics in Japan it must be noted that the decline accelerated as of the mids after two decades of relative stability. The oil crises of and dampened economic growth. Annual increase of GDP declined, while real-estate prices continued to rise making it more difficult for young people Figure 4. At the same time, women flocked to universities in increasing numbers and female workforce participation grew continuously.

According to the national census of , 60 per cent of all women between 20 and 60 held a paid job at the time; this was as high as 74 per cent in the Figure 4. Source: Investigation of Desire carried out by Culturestudies and e-Falcon, quoted from Miura The lonely child 41 20—24 age bracket. These trends coincided with a steady increase of the age of first marriage4 Figure 4. From to , the age of first marriage rose by on average four years for both sexes, driving the age at when the first child is born up and the number of births per women down.

A correlation was furthermore discovered between income and marriage rate. The ratio of the unmarried is highest among men with a low income Figure 4. This observation has led to the conclusion that the overall marriage rate is declining, and with it the birth rate, because lower income groups can no longer afford marriage. Education has indeed become more expensive.


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    These outlays do not include fees for extracurricular cram classes or home teachers, living expenses and hobbies. As measured against an average annual household income of 5. Couples who make this kind of calculation may well be discouraged from having more than one child, if any.

    Yet, the argument that the Japanese do not procreate because they can no longer afford children misses the point, because, the long economic crisis of the s notwithstanding, Japanese society has never been more affluent. The moremouths-to-feed argument has often been made, and a positive relation between family size and poverty as well as vulnerability to poverty has often been established.

    However, in the case of post World War II Japan the argument is not compelling, not least because poverty is a very relative notion. Everybody participated in the seemingly boundless expansion, yet fertility declined.

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    The seeming paradox of the co-occurrence of falling birth rate and growing social wealth is encapsulated in Figure 4. Declining fertility is a multifaceted phenomenon that defies monocausal explanation. It is a social catastrophe because it fundamentally changes the social body and its mechanism of reproduction.

    For a population that has been growing for as long as its oldest members can remember to start shrinking 42 The lonely child Figure 4.

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    Rather than a reduction of the same to a smaller scale, the shrinking of the family, the hesitancy to reproduce, and the disappearance of siblings signifies the dissolution of an old social organization and the formation of a new one. Economic parameters alone are insufficient to explain socially-regulated fertility and the momentous transformation it brings in its wake. Consider the elegant S-curve in Figure 4. It establishes a positive correlation between income and marriage rate, but can a causal relationship between the two be inferred from it?

    For one thing, young men tend to be unmarried and have low incomes, both because they are young, not the other way round. Japanese society since the end of World War II has undergone enormous transformations in this regard. The general level of education has risen significantly and in its wake the Japanese have embraced individualism to an extent unimaginable in the early phase of industrialization.

    Just this one point is of great consequence, and it is only one of many changes that have occurred. If mutual love is a precondition of marriage, the possibility that no suitable partner will be found is implied. This is in stark contrast to a social arrangement where marriage is taken for granted and is basically a question of appropriate age.

    To the extent that love marriage gained ground at the expense of arranged marriage, the number of life-long unmarried men and women has been on the increase Table 4. And as unmarried life has become more common, the social stigma formerly attached to it is fading away, reinforcing the tendency. Since the s the growth rate of the number of households has consistently exceeded that of the population. Between the national censuses of and the population grew by 1.