Monday, January 26, 2009
Japan's recession and the low birth rate
Japan in the midst of an unprecedented recession, so corporations are being asked to work toward fixing another major problem: the country's low birthrate. At 1.34, the birthrate is well below the 2.0 needed to maintain Japan's population, according to the country's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Keidanren, Japan's largest business group, with 1,300 major international corporations as members, has issued a plea to its members to let workers go home early to spend time with their families and help Japan with its pressing social problem. One reason for the low birth rate is the 12-hour workday. But there are several other factors compounding the problem -- among them, the high cost of living, and social rigidity toward women and parenting. In addition, Japan's population is aging at a faster pace than any other country in the world. Analysts say the world's second-largest economy faces its greatest threat from its own social problems, rather than outside forces. And the country desperately needs to make some fixes to its current social and work structures, sociologists say.