Social Aspects of Low Fertility in Japan
December 2007 - November 2013
This project focuses on the decline of Japan’s total fertility rate (1.32 as of 2007). The declining birthrate has resulted in numerous policy measures over the years. However, these haven’t yet proven to be satisfying, as the birthrate continues its decline. Higher education levels for women, higher rates of women’s labour force participation, rising costs of living expenses and of raising and educating children in Japan, and a lack of attractive marriage-role-models for young people are all contributing factors influencing Japan’s birthrate, but are only part of the problem.
The project aims to analyze social aspects of Japan’s low fertility through multidisciplinary, qualitative research, and tries to give insights into the complexity of Japan’s demographic problem.
Starting off their project, Holthus and Klein organized a conference panel, which was held at the Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. By looking at Japan’s birthrate through the eyes of a political scientist, an anthropologist, a sociologist, and a Japanese religions specialist, this panel offered a variety of perspectives from the social sciences.
Two papers (Lisa Kuly, Religious Studies, Ph.D. student, Cornell University and Axel Klein) analyzed how political actors and social policies shape and influence public opinions in regards to Japan’s birthrate, looking at political statements, media messages, and by conducting participant observation and interviews with pregnant women as well as with male politicians in their split roles as lawmakers, husbands and fathers. Two papers (Glenda Roberts, Anthropology, professor, Waseda University and Barbara Holthus) delved into the realm of issues of work-life balance through qualitative interviews with urban career women, employed in large corporations with generous childcare leave and in-house daycare, and with “regularly” employed mothers and fathers on their experiences with the public and private daycare center system. Ito Peng, professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Toronto served as Chair and Discussant for this panel.