Big marriage Index

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Published: April 18, 2015 12:18:53 AM

Japan’s demographic slide set to continue as wedding costs beat down an already low marriage rate

It has been commonly known for some time now that Japan is teetering dangerously at the edge of a demographic slide—where the aged and dependent outnumber the young and productive. The economic stagnation of the past two decades has caused an entire generation to feel unsure about employment and financial security. The jobless rate is higher among people in their 20s, those born after Japan’s asset price bubble of the late-1980s to early-1990s, and has pulled down marriage rates in the country. So much so that in 2009, the number of 20-39-year-olds, the group that makes for more than 90% of first marriages, had contracted by 16% since 2000. And that’s despite nearly 70% unmarried men and 80% unmarried women in their 20s, as per a 2012 government survey, saying that they wanted to get married. And now, as Bloomberg has reported, with the costs of a typical wedding ceremony as high as $30,000, few are keen to get hitched and those who do take the leap are skipping celebrating it.

Many are postponing marriage well into their 40s, causing birth rates to fall, too, thanks to reduced fertility. The phenomenon has become so widespread that the Japanese have a term for it now—korei-shussan, roughly meaning ‘old-age motherhood’. This, in turn, reinforces the vicious circle of the demographic slide. The ministry in charge of addressing Japan’s declining birthrate spoke of the need for Abenomics (the popular moniker given to prime minister Shinzo Abe’s measures to revive the economy) to have a ‘Babynomics’ component, but that still seems a long distance away, with even improvement in marriage rates yet to be seen.

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