Updated June 8th, 2024 at 14:18 IST

Japan's Birth Rate Hits Record Low, Government Introduces State-Backed Dating App

With more deaths than births, Japan’s population is shrinking, raising concerns about the workforce, economy, and societal structure.

Reported by: Digital Desk
A pedestrian crossing a street with a child is seen through a taxi window in Tokyo | Image:AP photo
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Tokyo: Japan faces a serious demographic challenge as its birth rate plummets to an unprecedented low, prompting the government to launch initiatives to reverse this trend, including a state-backed dating app, a leading English daily reported.

In a country with a population of 123.9 million, only 727,277 births were recorded last year, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. The fertility rate has also dropped to 1.20 from 1.26. For a stable population, a fertility rate of 2.1 is needed. Japan has failed to meet this benchmark for over 50 years, a struggle that began with the 1973 oil crisis and subsequent global economic recessions.

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Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters that it's "a critical situation.” The next six years, until the 2030s, will be “the last chance for us to possibly reverse the trend,” he said.

Hayashi noted economic instability, difficulties in balancing work and childrearing and other complex factors as main reasons why young people have a hard time deciding to get married or raise children.

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The consequences are severe. With more deaths than births, Japan’s population is shrinking, raising concerns about the workforce, economy, and societal structure. In 2023, Japan saw 1.57 million deaths, more than double the birth rate, said the report.

Marriages are also declining, with 30,000 fewer marriages last year and a rise in divorces. Experts predict this decline will continue for decades due to the demographic imbalance.

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To address these challenges, the government has created specialised agencies and rolled out initiatives like expanding childcare facilities, offering housing subsidies for parents and providing financial incentives for couples to have children in some regions.

In Tokyo, a new strategy involves a government-operated dating app. Currently in preliminary testing, the app aims to connect individuals seeking marriage. It uses an AI matchmaking system from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Users take a "values diagnostic test" to determine compatibility and can specify desired traits in a partner.

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Elon Musk has praised Japan's initiative, stressing the importance of addressing declining birth rates. However, experts caution against apocalyptic predictions, noting that while demographic changes are significant, they will not lead to the disappearance of nations like Japan.

The dating app highlights the government’s commitment to encouraging marriages, urging individuals who want to marry to take the first step. Users must be single, over 18, and living or working in Tokyo.

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The app also provides additional support, including guidance on work-life balance, childcare, and housing assistance, and promotes men's involvement in domestic duties and career counseling.

This initiative seeks to redefine couplehood and encourage people to think about the importance of marriage. Through these efforts, Tokyo hopes to spark a cultural shift towards marriage, offering hope for a revitalised demographic future, added the report.

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Published June 8th, 2024 at 14:17 IST