Why are so many Japanese women unmarried?

Sex Problem in Japan: An Unusual Trend Among Japanese Women

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  • By 2040, 40 percent of all Japanese households are expected to be made up of a single person - a statistic that supports the country's “demographic time bomb” theory.
  • Japanese women want to get married in their 20s so that they can pursue a career and start a family at the same time
  • This pattern shows the social change that has been taking place since the 1980s, when women still had to choose between a career and marriage.
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In the 1980s, the number of unmarried young people in Japan rose along with the speculative bubble. Now that these singles are middle-aged, the proportion of one-person households in Japan is expected to grow to 40 percent by 2040.

In stark contrast to this is the willingness of more and more millennials, especially women in their 20s, to marry young - almost three decades after the speculative bubble burst.

Marriage is important in Japan - but hardly anyone gets married

Almost 80 percent of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 believed in 2015 that marriage is important. In 1987 it was 71 percent, according to a study by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. The quota for men was around the 60 percent mark at both times.

One of the main reasons for this change is the change in the working atmosphere, says Ryo Oizumi, who contributed to this study. In the 80s it was commonplace that young women had to choose between marriage and a career.

"Japan has reconstructed the environment in such a way that it allows mothers to work after marriage and the birth of their children," explained Oizumi.

Compared to before, women in their 20s now have many more job opportunities and higher salary opportunities, says Hinae Niori, founder of the start-up “Manma”, which helps young people improve their family life. Three of Niori's friends got married in their 20s.

“You don't have to pay attention to a high income when looking for a partner - you would rather marry young and then concentrate on your work in your 30s. Marriage and children no longer rule out a career, ”says Niori, himself only 23 years old.

What these young people want and what reality brings with it, however, are two different pairs of shoes. The 2015 data collection shows a slowly increasing number of unmarried men and women between 25 and 39.

"There seem to be a few problems with the men," says researcher Oizumi. Almost three decades after the bubble, also known as the “lost decades”, companies began to hire more part-time workers and offer fewer full-time jobs. The change in income decreased men's lust for marriage.

Completed by Lisa Nonaka. Translated by Jonas Grundler.