Thursday, June 03, 2004

Replacement Fertility Rates And Japan's Pill Politics

Parasite Singles and Losing Dogs

Today, via Drudge and our Japanese counterparts, we learn two new terms, parasite singles and losing dogs.

You might be a parasite single if you're a young person (mind you, young in age or spirit; over 40s included), and you sponge off [your] parents and use [your] rent-free incomes to splurge on designer goodies, expensive dinners and trips abroad.

The term applies equally to women and men, although the article says the most carefree of the parasite singles tend to be women. You know what? If you can put up with living under the watchful eye of your parents, I say go for it.

On the other hand, you can only qualify as a losing dog if you're female:

Sakai says Japanese society still thinks there's something wrong with unmarried women over the age of, say, 30. She calls spinsters like herself ''losing dogs.'' But fewer and fewer women care about tradition. ''I know I'm a losing dog,'' Sakai says, ''but I'm quite satisfied with my life.''

I must say, I do wonder what my two dogs (both male) would have to say about this. I do, occasionally, accuse them of being losing dogs. Nothing to do with their marital status, mind you. Just your basic eating-everything-in-site-including-paper-products type issues.

Returning to the article:

# Marriage. Japanese are postponing marriage or avoiding it altogether. Weddings dropped last year for the second straight year. Fifty-four percent of Japanese women in their late 20s are single, up from 30.6% in 1985. About half of single Japanese women ages 35 to 54 have no intention to marry, according to a survey in January by the Japan Institute of Life Insurance.

# Births. Just 1.1 million babies were born in Japan last year, the third straight decline. The average Japanese couple now produces just 1.32 children, well below the minimum 2.08 needed to compensate for deaths. As a result of plummeting birth rates, Japan's population is expected to peak in 2006, and then decline rapidly.

An aside. Here are the 2002 fertility rates* for a few selected countries (sorry, I don't know how to post a table):

-- US 2.1

-- UK 1.6

-- France 1.9

-- Germany 1.3

-- Italy 1.2

-- Russian Federation 1.2

-- China 1.8

-- Japan 1.3

-- Australia 1.7

-- Brazil 2.2

-- India 3.1

-- Saudi Arabia 4.6

-- South Africa 2.6

-- Yemen 7 (highest in the world)

[*replacement fertility rate = the rate needed to replace a population is ~2.1]

Finally, also from the article (emphasis added):

# Sex. In a 2001 survey, condom maker Durex found that Japan ranked dead last among 28 countries in the frequency of sex: The average Japanese had sex just 36 times a year. Hong Kong was next to last with 63. (Americans ranked No. 1 at 124 times a year.)

AERA reports that condom shipments are down 40% since 1993 (probably in part because Japan finally legalized birth-control pills in 1999) and love-hotel check-ins are off at least 20% over the past five years. What's more, an increasing number of those visiting love hotels aren't there for romance, AERA says; they've found that love hotels offer the cheapest access to karaoke machines and video games.

Apropos of Japan and the birth control pill, here's an interesting insight into Japan's Pill politics:

"Japan is the only country in the United Nations that disallowed the birth control pill until two years ago [1999]. The health ministry was able to reject the birth control pill on a moral pretext, but the real reasons were probably the existence of vested interest groups. Viagra, by contrast, within one year of being allowed in the United States and within six months of formal application for its approval being made, was allowed into Japan. Many suspected a gender bias, but that was not the case. Obviously, when the birth control pill was introduced, there was no Internet. With the Internet, it became impossible to prevent people who wanted Viagra from obtaining it on the black market. With no practical means of imposing an enforceable barrier to its entry, the health ministry really had no choice but to allow it into Japan. All it means, of course, is that if a product is available throughout the world, the ability of the Japanese government to keep it out is no longer there with the Internet. That is what I call simultaneity - happening everywhere at once."

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At 9:37 PM, Blogger Amanda Marcotte said...

Seems to me that young women are probably open to living with their parents more than young men because it's not frowned upon as much.

At 4:53 AM, Blogger Alexandria The Great said...

You neglected to mention the biggest reason women don't want to get married in Japan: rights and gender roles.

Women are expected to quite, become housewives and are expected to pick up after and clean and cook for their husbands, not to mention raise the kids by themselves. Men only bring the dough home.

If I was a Japanese woman, I wouldn't want to get married either.


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