This Country Pays Couples to Have Kids



Japan's population is aging at a previously unheard-of rate, putting it in danger of a demographic crisis that will have long-term effects on its society and economy.

Its birth rate has been down for a while, and the coronavirus in 2020 didn't help matters much either. While cohabiting couples apparently had more time to spend together as they switched to stay-at-home lifestyles, the coronavirus was a major factor in another reason couples in Japan frequently delay, or choose not to have children. It's difficult to decide to take your relationship to the let's get married and start a family together level during a pandemic.

While gender expectations are a topic of considerable discussion when it comes to Japan's low birth rate, another important idea is the country's strong sense of familial duty. Japanese couples are often believed to be hesitant to have children unless they are absolutely confident they will be able to support their growing family financially. Tokyo's birth rate decreased even more in 2020 as a result of the pandemic's detrimental effects on the security of employment and money. Between April and October, just 60,000 pregnancies were registered, a 10-percent decrease from the same time last year.

Nevertheless, there is a fresh strategy to increase birth rates in the capital, that is, by paying 80,000 yen (€556, $592) to couples who give birth in Tokyo.

However, critics claim that it is insufficient to persuade people who are suffering with growing costs and stagnating earnings to become parents. Others point at the fact that merely throwing money at the issue hasn't worked in the past and is unlikely to do the same again.

Currently, when a child is born in Japan, new parents get a one-time payment of 420,000 yen. That amount has been suggested to be raised to 500,000 yen by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, and it is understood that the higher number will be implemented on April 1 of the following fiscal year.


From Bad to Worse

The initiative follows the release of the most recent unsettling Japanese population figures.

Research published in the medical magazine The Lancet prior to the coronavirus pandemic predicted that Japan's overall population will decrease to 53 million by the end of the century. In 2021, there were 125.7 million Japanese, down from a peak of 128 million in 2017.

The Japanese have made an intentional choice to delay marriage and have fewer children in recent decades, mostly due to financial considerations.

Given the issues the pandemic has caused the country and, more lately, the effects of the situation in Ukraine on the world economy, that figure now seems overly optimistic.

Just 384,942 babies were born in the first half of this year, the Health Ministry reported in mid-September, a five percent decrease from the same period previous year.

Since the central government began compiling statistics in 1899, the ministry currently predicts that the total number of newborns for the entire year will be lower than the 811,604 new arrivals last year and almost probably below 800,000.

If authorized, the program would last for two years and allow households to earn the prize more than once if they had several pregnancies that were carried to term during that time. However, parents wouldn't receive a large sum of money at the hospital. Instead, the initiative would grant families credit that could be exchanged for childcare supplies and services on a website. Research revealed that the average hospital cost for giving birth in Tokyo is 100,000 yen higher than for the rest of Japan, thus that figure was picked.

Rather, it makes sense that raising a child there is also more expensive than having one in Japan's most expensive city.

Many Promises Yet to Fulfilled

The national government, regional governments, and numerous local municipalities have all developed incentives intended to persuade people to start more families, including the provision of cars and even rent-free homes in rural areas that are most severely affected by depopulation. However, the majority of these initiatives have merely made financial promises.

Since the country is said to have fewer children, it’s noted that there has long been a shortage of spaces in nurseries for working parents, which is paradoxical considering that school activities, sports teams, and after-school activities are also expensive.

Additionally, there is still a cultural stigma attached to childcare and work. Mothers who decide to go back to work after maternity leave are said to frequently experience discrimination (paywall) and an unfair share of the household's childcare duties.

The majority of nations around the world struggle to offer families options for high-quality, affordable childcare, and in many areas, ingrained cultural barriers continue to penalize working women who want children—and even those who don't.

It is true that childbirth is discouraged in Japan by conservative ideas about being able to financially support one's children. The biggest problem, however, is often told that prospective parents lack faith in their capacity to make enough money to sustain their family while also striking a healthy and fulfilling balance between work and personal life for the many years that their child will be growing up.

The experience of Japan demonstrates how challenging it is to raise fertility to replacement levels, particularly when a nation has a large population and a consistently low birth rate. Furthermore, it is impossible to expect Japan's immigration laws to be liberalized in order to immediately and drastically expand overseas migration in order to reverse the country's rapid demographic decrease.

Time to Accelerate to Save the Economy

Therefore, the nation is observed to be stepping up its efforts to maintain and, ideally, increase fertility. To lessen the significant social and economic costs associated with population decrease, Tokyo should assist women and couples in balancing their job and family responsibilities.

The Japanese labor market has to be more family-friendly, and gender roles in the home need to change. Even if government initiatives to encourage family-friendly workplaces and gender-equal homes fall short of increasing fertility and slowing population decline, they will probably increase the wellbeing of Japanese families through enhancing family life.

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