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Everything you need to know about Japan's population crisis

中国日报网 2014-01-17 09:58





Why is Japan in trouble?

The Japanese now have one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, and at the same time, one of the highest longevity rates. As a result, the population is dropping rapidly, and becoming increasingly weighted toward older people. After peaking seven years ago, at 128 million, Japan's population has been falling — and is on a path to decline by about a million people a year. By 2060, the government estimates, there will be just 87 million people in Japan; nearly half of them will be over 65. Without a dramatic change in either the birthrate or its restrictive immigration policies, Japan simply won't have enough workers to support its retirees, and will enter a demographic death spiral. Yet the babies aren't coming.

Why not?

The British newspaper The Observer recently caused an international stir by reporting that Japanese youth have lost interest in sex. The sensationalist conclusion was mostly based on a single statistic: a survey that found that 45 percent of women and 25 percent of men ages 16 to 24 said they were not looking to have sex. The article also cited the phrase sekkusu shinai shokogun, or "celibacy syndrome," as if it were a major trend. In reality, more Japanese singles are having sex than in past decades. In 1990, 65 percent of unmarried women and 45 percent of unmarried men had never had sex; today, the figures are 50 percent and 40 percent, respectively. "Of course Japanese have sex," Asian studies professor Jeff Kingston toldBloomberg.com." If the number of love hotels is any barometer, it seems like many are getting plenty of it."

Is celibacy syndrome a myth?

Not entirely. There clearly is a subset of Japanese youth who have withdrawn from dating. Instead, they focus on online porn and games like Nintendo's Love Plus, in which players conduct a relationship with an anime girlfriend. Hundreds of thousands of young men areknown as hikikomori, shut-ins who eschew human contact and spend their days playing video games and reading comics in their parents' homes. (See below.) But most Japanese young people do have friends and relationships — they're just not settling down. The marriage rate has plummeted, and with it the birthrate, since out-of-wedlock births are rare in Japan. In 1975, just 21 percent of women and 49 percent of men under 30 had never been married; by 2005, the figures were 60 percent of women and 72 percent of men.

Why aren't they getting married?

There are both cultural and economic barriers. In Japanese tradition, marriage was more about duty than romantic love. Arranged marriages were the norm well into the 1970s, and even into the 1990s most marriages were facilitated by "go-betweens," often the grooms' bosses. Left to their own devices, Japanese men aren't sure how to find wives — and many are shying away from the hunt, because they simply can't afford it. Wages have stagnated since the 1990s, while housing prices have shot up. A young Japanese man has good reason to believe that his standard of living would drop immensely if he had to house and support a wife and children — especially considering that his wife likely wouldn't be working.

Why make that assumption?

In Japan, marriage usually ends a woman's working career, even though most women are well educated. Once they have a child, women face strong social pressure to quit their jobs and assume very traditional roles, serving both the husband and the child. Mothers who want to keep working are stigmatized and usually find that employers won't hire them. Child care is scarce and expensive, while Japan's brutal work culture often demands that employees work more than 50 hours a week. Japanese husbands aren't much help either — they spend an average of one hour a day helping with the children and household chores, compared with three hours for husbands in the US and Western Europe. "You end up being a housewife with no independent income," bank worker Eri Tomita told The Observer. "It's not an option for women like me."

Could this tradition change?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants it to. This fall, he renamed his economic plan from Abenomics to Womenomics. "Creating an environment in which women find it comfortable to work," he told the U.N. General Assembly, "is no longer a matter of choice for Japan. It is instead a matter of the greatest urgency." He promised to expand day care offerings and promote flexible work arrangements so that women would no longer have to choose between work and childbearing, and he challenged businesses to promote women to senior management. Most economists, though, think that the trends won't change fast enough to prevent a real demographic crisis. "Sooner or later," said economics professor Heizo Takenaka, "Japan will have to face the necessity of immigration."

An epidemic of shut-ins

For years, Takeshi hid from the world, playing video games all night and sleeping all day, eating from a tray his mother left outside his room. He was a hikikomori, one of an estimated 1 million Japanese teens and young men who have become shut-ins, with virtually no human contact beyond their parents. Some of the hikikomori first withdraw because of some social embarrassment — bad grades, or a romantic rejection. The longer they drop out, the more shame they feel in a society where one's status and reputation are paramount and hard to change. Parents, and especially mothers, often enable the withdrawal. "In Japan, mothers and sons often have a symbiotic, codependent relationship," says psychiatrist Tamaki Saito, who first identified the disorder in the 1990s. Takeshi re-entered society after four years, thanks to a government program that sends female outreach counselors known as "rental sisters" to coax the hikikomoriout of the house. But that program doesn't always work. As one shut-in of 15 years said, "I missed my chance."



日本现在是世界上出生率最低的国家,与此同时,也是世界上最长寿的国家,因此 日本的人口急剧下降,老龄化趋势也越来越严重。七年前,日本人口达到峰值——1.28亿,这之后人口数开始走下坡路,每年减少近100万。政府预测,至2060年,日本将仅有8700万人口,其中近一半是超过65岁的老人。如果日本的出生率和限制性的移民政策没有大的变动,那么这个国家的劳动力将无法抚养其已经退休的父母,日本的人口死亡曲线将呈现螺旋上升的趋势,而出生率仍保持较低水平。


英国报纸《观察家》近日报道称日本青年对两性欢愉之事失去了兴趣,这一言论引发了一场国际口水战。感觉论者得出的结论多数基于单一的调查数据:一项调查发 现,年龄处于16至24岁的年轻人中,45%的女性和25%的男性称自己不再对性爱感兴趣。这篇文章同时提到“sekkusu shinai shokogun”这个短语,意思是“独身主义综合症”,这种现象似乎是现在的主要趋势。实际上,对比过去几十年来说,更多日本单身青年已经开始享受性爱了。1990年,未婚人群中,65%的女性和45%的男性没有性经验,而现在,这两个数据分别降到50%和40%。一位亚洲研究教授杰夫•金士顿(Jeff Kingston)对彭博新闻社称:“日本人是当然是有性生活的,如果情侣酒店的数量在某种意义上是一种晴雨表的话,那日本人的性生活还是比较丰富的。”


不完全是。现今确有一类日本青年不去约会。取而代之的是,他们专注于网络色情和游戏诸如:任天堂的《爱相随》(Love Plus),玩家可以与动漫女友展开一段恋情。成千上万的年轻人成为隐蔽青年,长期遁世并在父母的家里玩游戏看动漫。(见下文)但是大多数日本年轻人有朋 友和恋爱关系——他们只是未安家。结婚率暴跌,随之而来的出生率,以及非婚生育率在日本也很少。1975年,30岁以下的人群中,只有21%的女性和49%的男性从未结婚。截至2005年,这两个数据分别涨至60%和72%。




在日本,婚姻通常意味着女性事业的结束,即使大多数女性受过良好的教育。一旦她们有了孩子,女人们因面临强大的社会压力而不得不辞职,并扮演相夫教子的传统角色。那些想继续工作的母亲们,往往受到歧视,而且雇主们不愿雇佣她们。保育稀缺且昂贵,但日本残酷的工作文化却通常要求雇员们每周工作50小时以上。日本丈夫们也帮不上忙——比起美国和欧洲丈夫们每天3小时的育儿和家务劳动,他们平均每天花费一小时帮助育儿以及做家务。银行雇员惠理•托米塔(Eri Tomita)对《观察家》称,“成为家庭主妇意味着独立经济来源的结束,这不是我这种女人的选择 。”


首相安倍晋三想要改变它。今秋,他把经济计划从安倍经济重命名为女性经济。他在联合国大会上发言“为女性创造一种舒适的工作环境,已不是日本的一种选择,而是最紧迫的问题。”他承诺扩大日间护理服务,增加灵活的工作安排,为了使日本女性不再在工作和育儿上做抉择。与此同时,安倍呼吁企业提拔女性高管。多数经 济学家认为,这种趋势不会快到产生一场真正的人口危机。经济学教授竹中平藏(Heizo Takenaka)称“日本早晚将面临必须移民的境况。”


近些年来,武石(Takeshi)十分避世,他通宵打电玩,白天睡觉,吃妈妈放在屋子外面的饭。他就是隐蔽青年,除了父母再没人接触他们的百万青少年中的一 员。一些隐蔽青年起初是因为一些困窘诸如:糟糕的成绩或者是失恋。他们避世的时间越久,在这个人们地位和名声至关重要的社会中,他们越感卑微,这种情况很 难有所改变。他们的父母,特别是母亲,经常纵容自己孩子这样做。精神病学家玉木宏齐藤(Tamaki Saito)称:“在日本,母亲和儿子通常有一种共栖,共存的关系。”他在90年代第一次发现了这个奇怪的现象。一项以“租赁姐妹”著称的政府计划,即为哄骗宅男走出家门而分派妇女做顾问的计划,使武石四年后重新认识了社会。然而这项计划并没有始终奏效,就像一个避世在家15年的宅男说的那样:“我错失了机会。”

(译者 angelyes 编辑 丹妮)



















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