- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday announced a $25 billion family relief plan to boost the birth rate.
- Just under 800,000 births were reported in Japan last year, the lowest number since statistics were compiled in 1899.
- But is putting money on the table enough to change a country’s demographic curve? 20 minutes Thanks to the insights of Bénédict Castineau, demographer at the Institute for Research on Development (IRD) and Stephanie Dutain, sociologist demographer and teacher-researcher at Paris City University.
The people of the Land of the Rising Sun seem to be in the twilight of their lives. at Japan, nearly 30% of citizens are 65 or older. It’s a world record, behind Monaco It welcomes many retirees. Facing A Birth rate At half-mast and hoping to fuel the rebound, Tokyo announced a $25 billion plan on Thursday.
But is putting money on the table enough to encourage the population to reproduce? 20 minutes Thanks to the expertise of Bénédict Castineau, demographer at the Institute for Research on Development (IRD) and Stephanie Dutain, sociologist demographer and teacher-researcher at Paris City University.
Is Japan suffering from a record low birth rate?
In 2022, Number of births Japan fell below 800,000, the lowest since the figures began in 1899. That’s nearly double what it was forty years ago, according to official figures released publicly at the end of February. “Japan is experiencing aging from the bottom of the pyramid, with fewer births, but from the top, as the country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world,” recalls sociologist demographer Stephanie Tudine. Almost a third of Japanese citizens are 65 or older. “Japan has a very old population, with only 12% of Japanese under the age of 15, twice as many as those 65 or older,” notes Bénédict Castineau, a demographer at the Institut de Recherche pour le Development (IRD).
Additionally, Japan is a very closed country to immigration. “The situation is easy because the country lives in a vacuum, it’s an archipelago. All these factors lead to population winter in Japan,” explains Stephanie Tudine. Countless other countries do not have enough births to renew the population South Korea OrItaly. But with 800,000 births a year to 120 million people, the Land of the Rising Sun is particularly vulnerable. “By comparison, in France we register 700,000 births per year for 70 million people,” slips the teacher-researcher at Paris City University. “If fertility is too low, Japan is in danger of disappearing. 900 municipalities are already on the verge of extinction in the country,” explains Benedict Castino.
Do pro-birth policies work?
Hoping to curb the phenomenon, the Japanese government has put a $25 billion plan on the table. The menu intertwines direct financial support for parents, financial support for education and prenatal care, parental leave for fathers and promotion of flexible working hours. “Financial aid is designed to encourage citizens to reproduce, but I think it has little impact on a country’s wealth. It only helps those who are already planning to have children,” says Stephanie Dutain. kept,” he recalled.
Pro-birth policies are too expensive — as evidenced by this $25 billion program — for often meager results. However, by supporting the economy in recent years, Tokyo It has already greatly increased its public debt. The archipelago, which plans to significantly increase its military spending, faces a financial crisis by putting so much money on the table to boost the birth rate. Lack of financial support especially for parents is far from the only reason for the country’s population decline. “We have to ask ourselves the question why,” underlines Benedict Castino.
Besides money, what substance can have a positive effect on the birth rate?
“Fertility is a very complex phenomenon that depends on many factors. It is a mistake to reduce it to financial measures,” asks Stephanie Dudain right away. Japan faces many birth rate problems. The traditional distribution of roles is very stable in the archipelago. According to a 2021 government study, Japanese women are four times more likely than men. Too much time is spent on children and housework. Lack of childcare options makes it more frustrating and more difficult for a mother to continue working. This explains why Japan has the highest rate of childless women over 50 in the OECD, nearly 30%.
“To increase fertility, women need to be displaced,” warns Benedict Castino. Demographers point to the place of children that involves financial investment (private lessons, music lessons, etc.) but also the rigidity of the family structure. Only 2.4% of births in the country occur out of wedlock, the lowest rate among countriesOECD. The shackles set by government announcements will not be enough to change the pattern of society. “In Japan it is the woman who raises her baby. I am not sure that these measures are sufficient to overcome this cultural image which is deeply rooted in the society. In SwedenIt works but the Japanese culture is completely different”, explains Stéphanie Toutain.