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Fertility in Japan plummets; Tokyo creates dating app to change the game

Japan’s fertility rate, which has seen a precipitous drop for many years, has fallen further to a historic low as the government steps up efforts to encourage young people to marry and start families – even launching its own dating app.

The nation of 123.9 million people recorded just 727,277 births last year, according to new data released by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare this Friday (7). The fertility rate – defined as the total number of births a woman has during her lifetime – fell from 1.26 to 1.20.

For a population to remain stable, a fertility rate of 2.1 is required. Any value above this will be responsible for a population expansion, with a large proportion of children and young adults, as seen in India and many African countries.

But in Japan, the fertility rate has been well below the stable 2.1 mark for half a century, experts say. The number of children per woman fell below that level for the first time after the 1973 global oil crisis pushed economies into recession.

The downward trend has accelerated in recent years, with the number of deaths outpacing the number of births, causing the total population to decline – with long-term consequences for the workforce, the economy, the social security system and the social fabric from Japan.

In 2023, the country recorded 1.57 million deaths, according to the Ministry of Health – more than double the number of births.

And the Japanese don’t have much marital luck either – the number of marriages fell by 30,000 last year compared to 2022, while the number of divorces rose.

Experts say the decline is expected to continue for at least several decades and is, to some extent, irreversible due to the country’s population structure. Even if Japan were to increase its fertility rate tomorrow, its population would continue to fall until the skewed ratio of young people to older adults evens out.

Still, the government is rushing to mitigate the impact, launching new government agencies to specifically focus on this problem. Initiatives include expanding child care facilities, offering housing subsidies to parents and, in some cities, even paying couples to have children.

In the capital, Tokyo, local authorities are trying a new approach: launching a government-run dating app, which is in early testing and will be fully operational later this year.

“Please use the app as ‘the first step’ to start marriage hunting,” the app’s website says, adding that the AI ​​matching system is provided by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Users need to take a “values ​​diagnostic test”, and there is also the option to enter the desired characteristics of a future partner.

“Based on your values ​​and the values ​​you look for in a partner, which can be determined through a test, the AI ​​will match you with a compatible person,” he said. “What cannot be measured by appearance or conditions alone can lead to unexpected encounters.”

The app even caught the attention of billionaire Elon Musk, who wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “I’m happy that the Japanese government recognizes the importance of this issue. If radical measures are not taken, Japan (and many other countries) will disappear!”

Experts said to CNN This scenario is unlikely – it is expected that the fertility rate will stabilize at some point and the country will adjust. Japan may look very different then, from its demographic makeup to its economy and internal policies, but it will not simply disappear.

“Marriage is a decision based on one’s values, but the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is working to create momentum for marriage so that those who think they ‘intend to get married eventually’ can take the first step,” says the Tokyo’s website. dating app.

Users must be single, over 18 “with the desire to get married” and live or work in Tokyo, the website says.

The government also lists other measures to support couples – such as providing information on work-life balance, childcare and housing support, men’s participation in household chores and child-rearing, and careers advice.

“We hope that each of you who want to get married will think about what being in a ‘couple’ means to you,” it reads.

Source: CNN Brasil

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