Where are all the babies?
posted on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 06:45 AM
It is a known fact that there are more dogs in Japan than babies, and they get better treatment and insurance. And no, that wasn't a joke. Pets are seen as fashionable and 'chou kawaii' (really cute). Unfoturnately, babies are seen as money and time consuming. I've come across many friends of mine whom having taking time off work to tend to their children return to find that they are then looked down upon. Yes, one should never take time off work in Japan not even if your son or daughter has the new influenza.
Japan is increasinglfinding itself in an unenviable position with its declining birthrate. It has been reported, with more frequency these days, that the Japanese population is getting older while fewer births are reported year after year. The government is trying to increase subsidies given to families, as well as lessen the burden of education costs. But there are other things that need to happen at the government level as well as societal changes to increase the birthrate and bring Japan back from the brink.
Japan should take a page from the Russians. Russia is another industrial country that finds itself in a similar predicament as Japan. In the Ulanovsk region, Sept 12 is an official holiday called “Day of Conception.” Basically, workers are sent home to their wives or husbands and told to procreate “for the good of your country.” This sounds silly on paper, but other regions have followed suit. Now the birthrates in those regions have steadily been increasing the past two years since the day was proclaimed. Japanese workers tend to work more days and longer hours thereby cutting into couples’ “interaction” time.
We as a society need to work together to solve this problem as well. Companies need to be less strict with their employees, especially female ones. If a woman is hired, takes maternity leave (if the company offers it) and returns to work, she often finds herself relegated to the company cellar: losing seniority. Granted this is not every company: many offer nice monetary rewards to their employees for giving birth – like my wife’s company – but it’s not happening at an acceptable rate.
The government has to invest in more daycare facilities. This is a tough one because of the vicious circle that exists in Japan: the government won’t put up new daycare centers because of the low birthrate and couples won’t have children due to the lack of daycare. The government should be the first to blink and tell families they are serious about the country’s birthrate, i.e., build more care centers for working parents.
The entertainment industry could also help with societal changes. There seem to be a lot of TV shows and books praising the single life and decrying the trials and tribulations of being a parent. I have no problem with the single life looked upon favorably but it has its faults too. There needs to be more on the joys of marriage and child-rearing. The burdens and heartaches shouldn’t be whitewashed but they cannot be presented as the only facet of raising a family.
Main commentary by Japheth Worthy with additions from your Creative Director, Barry.