Facing a 'demographic time bomb,' young Japanese women want to marry as soon as possible — but they aren't getting their wish

Draped in traditional kimonos, 20-year-old women gather for their ‘Coming-of-Age’ ceremony at the Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, suburb of Tokyo. Photo: Toru Yamaka/AFP/Getty Images

  • By 2040, it’s expected that 40% of Japan’s households will be single-person — a statistic that supports what experts call the “demographic time bomb” in the country, stemming from low fertility and consumer spending.
  • However, Japanese women in their 20s would prefer to marry young, and focus on building a family along with a career.
  • This pattern reflects a societal shift in Japan from the 1980s, when women were pressured to choose either marriage or a career.

In the 1980s, the number of unmarried young people in Japan increased along with the economic bubble. With those singles now in their middle age, the one-person household is projected to be more than 40% of the country’s total households by 2040.

In a stark contrast, more millennials, particularly women in their 20s, increasingly wish to marry young — almost three decades after that bubble burst.

Nearly 80% of women between ages 18 and 34 felt marriage was important in 2015, up from 71% in 1987, according to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. The rate for the men has hovered around 60% during the same two time periods.

One of the key reasons behind the rise in young women wanting to be married is a change to the working environment around them, said Ryo Oizumi, who worked on the research. Back in the 1980s, many women were likely to be pressured to choose one of two options: marriage or a career.

“Japan’s been restructuring its environment in a way that enables mothers to work even after marriage and childbirth. Women have fewer losses stemming from marriage,” Oizumi said.

Unlike those who were in their 20s during the bubble economy, women of the same age now enjoy more job opportunities and higher earning potential, said Hinae Niori, who founded her startup manma, which helps young people improve their family life. Three of Niori’s friends in their 20s are already married.

“They don’t have to search for a man with a lot more income — they’d rather marry young and shift their focus more to work when in their 30s. Marriage and childbirth are no longer a roadblock for their career path,” said Niori, 23.

What these young people want, however, doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality. The 2015 census shows a gradual rise in the number of unmarried men and women between 25 and 39.

National Institute of Population and Social Security Research

japanese men who want to marry National Institute of Population and Social Security Research

“There seem to be some issues on the men’s side,” said researcher Oizumi. Nearly three decades after the end of the bubble economy, or the so-called ‘Lost Decades,’ companies have cut new hires of full-time workers and instead increased part-timers. Relatively unstable income for part-timers ended up reducing those men’s appetite for marriage.

Additional reporting by Lisa Nonaka.

Read the original article on Business Insider Japan. This story originally appeared on Business Insider Japan and has been translated from Japanese. Copyright 2018. Follow Business Insider Japan on Twitter.

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