In Economy & Markets last month, Harry Dent had some interesting comments on marriage and family formation in Japan and what it means for the Japanese economy. Here’s an excerpt:
It’s one thing to naturally have fewer kids as a country urbanizes and gets more wealthy. It costs more to raise and educate kids in such a society and so couples naturally choose to have fewer kids and educate them better. Every developed country has seen such trends, as have the urban populations of emerging countries.
But there’s something different in Japan, something downright scary. They not only have one of the lowest average number of children per woman of 1.41 vs. a 2.1 replacement rate, but single and married people increasingly have no interest in sex or romantic relationships…
Here are some key findings:
1. 45% of women and 25% of men 16 to 24 are “not interested in or despised sexual contact.”
2. More than 49% of Japanese citizens are single.
3. 40% of unmarried men and 61% of unmarried women age 18 to 34 are not in any kind of romantic relationship.
4. 23% of women and 27% of men say “they are not interested in any kind of romantic relationship.”
5. 39% of Japanese women and 36% of men of child-bearing age, 18 to 34, have never had sex.
6. Women in their early 20s have a 25% chance of never getting married and a 40% chance of never having kids.
Japanese laws and social customs make it extremely difficult for women to have a career and a family. Women who get pregnant, or even just marry, are generally expected to quit work and become a housewife…
On top of this extraordinarily high lack of interest in sex and having families, the Japanese live longer than any other wealthy country in the world, with a life expectancy of 84 vs. 79 in the U.S. and 80 to 81 in most of Europe.
That means they retire longer and require more support from a dwindling workforce… By 2050, that 48 million workforce will be supporting 37 million elderly aged 65 and over.
If this isn’t economic suicide, or Hara-kiri, I don’t know what is.