ELI5; Why japan’s population is decreasing

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ELI5; Why japan’s population is decreasing

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Aging population, low fertility rate, low immigration rate. So people die and they aren’t replaced.

A lot of developed countries have sub-replacement fertility rates, and only keep positive population growth because of immigration.

Japan has a lot of serious social problems, and the generally Conservative mindset of the Japanese population means they are very resistant to change. “We’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas!”

The pressures to get a career, get married, have kids, have a family life, and do what society expects of you are very high. Japanese kids have this drilled into them from a young age and not following your families wishes, customs, and social norms in Japan is not well tolerated.

There’s a Japanese proverb: “the nail that sticks out gets hammered” – those that differ from the expected norm get criticized and quickly get put in their place.

Unmarried Women over the age of 25 are referred to by the derogatory term Christmas cake. Everyone loves Christmas cake, but after the 25th no one wants it anymore and it gets discounted or thrown in the trash. IE after 25 a Japanese woman is seen as past her prime and no longer desirable and therefore probably has something wrong with her. They are treated as a burden on the family.

Like in the West paygrades aren’t keeping up with inflation and the good salary jobs require a university level education. Big Companies have highly ritualized hiring and interview processes and typically only hire straight out of school and expect you to work there for life. Retirement age is mandatory, and paygrades are strictly controlled union style. So by the time you graduate and get a job you’re pushing 22-23 often with debt and with lower starting salaries men have a hard time attracting a wife because they can’t afford the home or kids the wife (or her parents) want right away.

Japanese culture enforces that you should keep your opinions to yourself and telling off your boss, parents, or authority figures is almost unheard of.

Salary men in particular are expected to work long hours and overtime with no pay for the benefit of the company. It’s considered rude to leave before the boss, and the boss is expected to stay late to set an example. If he invites you out for drinks after work you *have* to go as refusing is considered extremely rude.

The traditional greeting when you get back from vacation is to apologize to your coworkers for forcing them to work harder in your absence (because of your selfish request for time off). Single day or long weekend vacations are therefore the norm in Japan, with people trying to cram as much into a single day off as possible as to not disturb work. Taking a week or 2 off in a row and traveling to another country is considered by most Japanese as a once in a lifetime thing. Unused vacation time has become such a problem in Japan that they’ve recently had to pass laws to force companies to make people take their vacations.

This practice of free overtime remains despite several attempts to penalize companies for doing this by law due to the intense social pressure. No one wants to be that-guy that tells the boss “this is illegal, I’m going home” Japanese are known for dropping dead at the desks due to working too much, and it happens so often that they have a term for it. Karoshi – lit death by overwork.

The suicide rate is also quite high, although it has been on the decline.

Increasing numbers of young men are locking themselves in their rooms and refuse to come out, work, or even participate in social events outside of the internet. This phenomenon is called hikikomori and is described as an intense form of social withdrawal caused by the intense social pressures of Japanese society. The pressure to conform for some men is so high that they respond by shutting down and just refusing to participate in society at all. The number of young men who suffer from this is not well known and likely much higher than reported because having such a child is a disgrace on the family and Japanese families refuse to involve therapists to try to fix the problem.

Young Japanese rebel against this culture by refusing to form relationships or getting married. The birthrate in Japan is consequently very low and those that choose to have families are having less kids like much of the Western world.

Career salarymen and women chose to focus on their jobs and remain single throughout their lives.

While many Western countries resolve their population decline with immigration, Japan also is notoriously difficult to immigrate too and there is still a great deal of ingrained racism towards non-Japanese or half-breeds.

EDIT: added a few more examples

Japan has one of if not the worst work/life balance in the developed world. Add in a high cost of living and you get a result that’s either people just don’t have the time or can’t afford it. There are numerous cultural influences as well, a lot of their going out culture is centred around drinking with your co workers or going to establishments where most of the women there are paid ‘hosts’.

Japan basically is against the solution to a shrinking population and a lack of specialized workers that every other Western country on the planet employs: They do not immigrate new workers.

She said there are a variety of reasons for the low birthrate, persistent gender bias and population decline in Japan, “but being in the parliament, I especially feel that there is indifference and ignorance.”

Japan is the world’s third biggest economy, a powerful democracy and a major U.S. ally, but the government has struggled to make society more inclusive for children, women and minorities. There are deep concerns, both within Japan and abroad, about how the country will reverse what critics call a deep-seated history of male chauvinism that has contributed to the low birthrate.

The gap between men and women in Japan is one of the world’s worst. It ranked 116th in a 146-nation survey by the World Economic Forum for 2022, which measured progress toward equality based on economic and political participation, as well as education, health and other opportunities for women.

“Japan has fallen behind because other countries have been changing faster,“ said Chizuko Ueno, a University of Tokyo professor of feminist studies, referring to Japan’s gender gap. ”Past governments have neglected the problem.”

Because of outdated social and legal systems surrounding family issues, younger Japanese are increasingly reluctant to get married and have children, contributing to the low birthrate and shrinking population, said Noda. She has served in parliament since 1993 and expressed her ambition to be Japan’s first female prime minister.[The AP Interview: Japan minister says women ‘underestimated’](https://www.thestar.com/life/2022/07/27/the-ap-interview-japan-minister-says-women-underestimated.html)