Family Politics

There's an eye-opening article in today's Washington Post about Japan's shrinking population. It brings into sharp relief the extent to which economies depend on women's bearing children:

The national child shortage, even as the population ages, is raising fears about Japan's long-term ability to maintain its status as the world's second-largest economy after the United States. With more Japanese choosing to remain single and forgoing parenthood, the population of almost 128 million is expected to decrease next year, then plunge to about 126 million by 2015 and about 101 million by 2050.

In Japan, schools are closing, obstetricians are shutting down their practices or becoming geriatric specialists instead to meet the demands of the market, and amusement parks are shutting down. Whole towns are folding and merging with other towns. They don't even mention toy stores, maternity clothing, and the sale of other baby-related accoutrements, such as bottles, formula, baby clothes, diaper bags, baby powder, baby lotion, baby oil, etc. etc.


It has happened in part because towns such as Nishiki suffer from a shortage not only of children, but also of eligible women. When Japan's economic bubble burst in 1990, Japanese companies seeking less expensive alternatives to men began hiring women for contract and part-time jobs. Gender roles have changed as a result. With increasing financial independence, more women are avoiding marriage. According to a poll released this week by Japan's Yomiuri newspaper, seven out of 10 single Japanese women say they have no desire to become wives -- a role that in Japan still largely means staying home and raising children.

I wonder: Is there really so much resistance to stay-at-home fatherhood in Japan? After learning a lot about the misleading ways the U.S. media covers the one-child policy in China*, I tend to be skeptical of these representations of life in other countries.

Good discussion at 11D about separate finances in marriage.

* See my notes on Arabella Lyon's presentation here.