With a birth-rate at record-lows and death-rate at record-highs, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe unveiled a new set of 'arrows' a few weeks ago to 'fix' the demographic disaster the nation faces. At the time, Abe was long of "bold proposals" but short of actual policies to encourage the nation to make more babies (despite dwindling interest in sex). As Bloomberg reports, here are a number of options that Abe's new minister for demographics Kato could introduce to slow the downward spiral of population...
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered his new minister for demographic issues to come up with “bold proposals” for raising Japan’s birthrate. His aim: Stem a slide in the labor force to drive production and fund the retirement of the country’s elderly. As Bloomberg reports, the working-age population in Asia’s second-biggest economy could shrink as much as 40 percent in the next 45 years, while the number of elderly balloons in a country with one of the world’s longest life expectancies.
Abe last month made arresting the decline a priority, announcing a new economic plan that calls for stabilizing the population at 100 million in half a century from 127 million now.
Here are some measures Abe’s new minister Katsunobu Kato, a father-of-four, could introduce to slow the downward spiral.
Less than 2 percent of the population are non-Japanese, compared with about 13 percent in the U.S. and Germany. Economists have called for increased immigration, and about half the respondents to an April poll in the Asahi newspaper agreed.
Abe last month rejected the idea of accepting more foreigners, saying he would first seek bolster the fertility rate, and entice women and the elderly into the workforce. Last year, he said foreigners were needed as housekeepers to allow more Japanese women to work outside the home, but details of a pilot program are yet to be decided.
Abe has repeatedly pledged to reduce to zero the number of children waiting for daycare places from the current 23,167. But despite a rapid expansion of facilities, waiting lists swelled this year for the first time in half a decade after the government loosened restrictions on families qualified to use the service.
Abe has promised to also cut to zero the number of people forced to give up work to care for aging relatives. About 260,000 people were being cared for at home while awaiting a space in a senior facility as of March last year; and with baby boomers — those born between 1947 and 1949 — set to hit 75 in under a decade, many of their children could be forced to drop paid work to care for them.
While subsidies for the nation’s understaffed nursing homes were cut this year, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga hinted this week that more money could be made available in an extra spending package.
Removing Tax Breaks
Spouses of employees don’t have to pay pension premiums and get tax breaks if they earn less than 1.3 million yen (or about $10,800) a year.
The system has been blamed for compelling women to accept poorly paid, part-time positions or stay out of the work force completely. While Abe has called for the establishment of a more neutral tax system, opposition including from within his coalition partner Komeito means this is unlikely to be included in tax plans for the next financial year.
Japan’s lifetime employment system is still in place, but only for a shrinking share of the workforce as about 40 percent of the workforce are employed on an hourly or contract basis. Pay is low for these — mostly female — workers and they often don’t receive benefits such as paid maternity leave, making it harder to start a family.
Kathy Matsui, chief Japan equity strategist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., last year said Japan’s economy could grow nearly 13 percent if the percentage of women in work equaled that of men. She called for more flexible working practices and equal treatment of full-time and part-time workers.
Women in Tokyo give birth to fewer children per head than those in any other part of Japan — the capital’s average of 1.15 compares with about 1.6 in the southwest. Abe wants to bolster this figure to 1.8.
Former cabinet minister Keiji Furuya advocates policies to reverse the drift from rural areas to Tokyo, including tax breaks for corporations who move their headquarters out of the capital. Proponents of the plan say it would help counter some of the difficulties of raising children in Tokyo, such as cramped housing, long commutes and a lack of support from a extended family nearby.
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That is all well and good, but remember what Kato is up against...
To examine Japanese attitudes toward sex, the Japan Family Planning Association interviewed 3,000 subjects, both male and female, about their sex lives. The group found that 49.3 percent of participants (48.3 percent of men, 50.1 percent of women) had not had sex in the past month. 21.3 percent of married men said they were too tired after work (versus 17.8 percent of women). Of men, 15.7 percent answered that they were no longer interested, after having children. 23.8 percent of women said sex was “bothersome.”
There are a number of diagnoses for this aversion to the bedroom. Morinaga Takuro, an economic analyst and TV personality, believes this has something to do with attractiveness. He has suggested a “handsome tax”: “If we impose a handsome tax on men who look good to correct the injustice only slightly, then it will become easier for ugly men to find love, and the number of people getting married will increase.”
In a nation where sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those of baby diapers, it’s an urgent national problem: there isn’t enough procreation.
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And then there is this!!!!
The Love and Sex with Robots conference due to be held in Malaysia has been cancelled by police for being "illegal".
The annual event, which was supposed to go ahead on 16 November, was called "ridiculous" by police chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.
There was "nothing scientific about having sex with machines," he said.
An apology has since been posted on the event organiser's website, loveandsexwithrobots.org.
It said the cancellation was because of "circumstances beyond our control.
"The conference will definitely not be held anywhere in Malaysia.
"We deeply apologise to any person or any authority which has felt offence in any way," a statement said.
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