It’s too late in the day to be shocked at the plummeting birthrate in Japan. Officials have gone hoarse with their warnings about the sharp decline in birthrate, but citizens seem to be ignoring the signs. Instead of abiding by the self-imposed one-child policy, many couples are opting for no-child but many-pets lifestyle.
There are many factors contributing to the 22 million pet population when compared to the 16.6 million children under-15 ratio. The average fertility rate, which is currently 1.39 children per woman, is destabilizing and a major cause for concern. If current trends continue, then there is a possibility of the 128-million population declining to 43 million over the next century! After speaking with several couples, it can be deduced that ambitious career plans, insecurities about current job and stagnant economic growth of couples, are some of the primary reasons for them opting for pets instead of children. Moreover, approximately 10 million people aged between 20 and 34 still live with their parents. So starting a family sounds like a difficult proposition.
The heartening news is the way couples are bringing up their pets. Almost all of the dog owners treat their pets as children and pamper them with expensive designer clothes, toys and spa treatments. Over the years the pet industry has boomed and is slated to be a $10 billion industry in Japan alone. Services include grooming, holidays at hot spring resorts, yoga classes and designer clothes.
“The most important reason for Japan’s declining birthrate is less sex,” says Dr. Kunio Kitamara, director of Japan’s Family Planning Research Centre. According to his data from 2010, it shows that 32% of young men dislike sex because “they are afraid of failure and rejection by women.” Sixty percent of women who are in their mid- to late 20s are single, and 70% of unmarried women are without a boyfriend. For the Japanese, marriage is still more or less mandatory for having children, with only 2% of children being born outside wedlock.
The earthquake from last year also adds to the strain with many to-be parents fearing for the safety of their children. In any case, many find it easier and affordable to send their pets to a canine daycare than a child. Education costs are skyrocketing and if you need time alone, it’s easier to ship your pet to a $100 a night dog hotel than finding a willing relative to look over junior for you. When the time comes, you can offer your loyal pet a fancy burial with full Buddhist rites: a deluxe funeral and cremation ceremony can cost $8,000.
Before you blame it on the government, they have tried to push incentives for couple like the introduction of maternity leave, increasing child benefit, providing nursery places. But the political instability and conflicting views on the matter from within the system, has failed to impress the public.