Olympic Year 2020, in Japan 50 Percent of Women are over 50 Years Old

Big issues of Japan as the population decline countdown
河合 雅司 プロフィール

What about the hard data from previous years?

Japanese TFR hit its lowest mark in 2005, at 1.26. Compared with more recent numbers from 2015, Japan had experienced a recovery of 0.19 points, growing to 1.45. Taken by itself, this might be seen to suggest that shoushika is on a path towards improvement.

Unfortunately though, when you compare the yearly number of births (from 1,062,530 born in 2005 to 1,005,677 in 2015), you can see a decrease of 56,853. In reality, shoushika marches on.

Japanese society finds itself caught in a vicious cycle in which the declining number of births perpetuates and exacerbates itself. Careful analysis shows that when it comes to the number of births, hope for a large scale recovery is faint indeed.


Is “The People’s Ideal Birth Rate” Actually Possible?

When TFR is calculated, women between the ages of 15 and 49 are included in the calculations as potential mothers, setting the age of 49 years as the upper limit for possible childbirth.

Let’s check the population numbers for women 49 and under.

Even now, as Japan’s population ages, the number of women in this younger generation set have declined, but the Institute for Population and Social Security Research (IPSS) estimates that in 2020 the number of women over the age of 50 (32,488,000) will overtake the number of women 49 and under (31,937,000).

Half of the women in Japan will have aged out of the given childbearing years.

Facing this future, the Abe administration has hammered out a plan to achieve “The People’s Ideal Fertility Rate,” which they’ve set at 1.8. As a concept, the ideal fertility rate supposes that the attempts to imbue the younger generations with a desire to marry and have children will succeed and thereby raise TFR.

Photo by iStock

What exactly does the government mean when they talk about the younger generation’s aspirations to marriage and parenthood?

The administration draws on the Fifteenth Basic Survey of Birth Trends (IPSS, 2015), which reports that the percentage of single men who plan on marrying someday is 85.7% and the percentage of single women who say the same is 89.3%.

For both male and female respondents, the percentage of respondents who “intend to get married by a certain age” has surpassed the percentage who say they are “fine being unmarried until [they] meet the ideal partner.”

When asked how many children they’d like to raise, men average 1.91 children and women average 2.02, for a combined 2.01 per couple. Extrapolating based on the assumption that these numbers stay constant, the current “People’s Ideal Fertility Rate” has been set at 1.8.

However, actually achieving “The People’s Ideal Fertility Rate” is not as simple as that.

Situations abound in which people want to marry but can’t or want to have children but can’t. To resolve those situations, the country and municipalities that make it up need serious and consistent initiatives.