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One in four 30-somethings unwilling to marry in Japan: survey

Government reports lowest number of marriages in 2021 since WWII

Individual freedom has been cited by many Japanese in their 30s as a key reason for staying single.   © Reuters

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- One in four singles in their 30s who have never been married in Japan said they have no desire to tie the knot, citing such reasons as concerns over a loss of freedom and associated housework and financial burdens, a government survey showed Tuesday.

The findings of the survey on marriage and income were cited in the government's white paper on gender equality, which also noted that the number of marriages in 2021 dropped to around 514,000, the lowest in the postwar period, on the basis of preliminary data.

Noting that the forms families take have diversified as they include people who are unmarried or divorced or in common-law relationships, the government called for policies and measures to be focused on individuals rather than households, with a view to revising the tax deduction for spouses and other steps.

The survey conducted last December to January, with responses from 20,000 people in their 20s to 60s, showed that 54.6% of men and 62.6% of women in their 30s were married, according to the white paper approved by the Cabinet. Among singles who have never been married, 46.4% of both men and women in their 30s said they hope to tie the knot, while 26.5% of men and 25.4% of women want to remain single.

Among singles in their 20s, 19.3% of men and 14.0% of women gave that answer.

The most common reason cited by men and women in both age groups for not getting married was wanting to remain free. By gender, more women than men said they do not want to shoulder the burden of housework, child care and nursing care marriage often entails while more men than women cited a lack of financial ability and job insecurity as reasons for shunning marriage.

More women than men, meanwhile, cited not wanting to change their surnames on becoming married and the procedures involved in doing so. Japan's Civil Code and family register law require the use of a single surname by family members, and it is customary, although not legally required, for a wife to take her husband's surname.

A separate white paper said that Japan is seeing a decline in its birthrate due to the spread of the coronavirus and that this could continue to fall below pre-pandemic levels, calling for online measures to support marriage and child care.

The number of babies born in the country dropped to 811,604 in 2021, hitting a record low for the sixth consecutive year and sliding at a faster pace than the government estimated in 2017.

Combined with the decline in marriages, "There is a view that the number of births may fall below the level expected under normal circumstances in the medium to long term," the white paper on measures to address declining birthrates said.

The white paper pointed out the need to create an environment in which young people can marry and raise children with peace of mind. Among specific measures, the white paper also called for helping nonregular workers find secure jobs.

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