Japan Research and Analysis
through Internet Information

by Yasuharu Dando

There is a possibility that one third of males in their 20s will be unmarried throughout their lifetime.
(October 2006) (Japanese edition:July 2006)...Japanese Blog Review 6

As the advance report on Japan's national census in 2005 is being released, it turns out that the percentage of the population over 65 years old is 21.0%, which is the highest in the world, and that the ratio of the population less than 15 years old is 13.6%, which is the world's lowest level, indicating the falling birthrate and the aging population. However, an important discussion point was disregarded. The increase in the lifelong unmarried ratio is accelerating, and there is a high possibility that one fourth of males in their late 30s will be unmarried throughout their life and one third of males in their late 20s will be single for their entire life. The lifelong unmarried ratio of females turned out to be much lower than that of males, but females in their 20s and 30s seem to be about to follow the same trends as males of the same generation.

My original analytical method is to subtract the unmarried ratio from the data of the past six censuses for each generation, which was divided at 5-year intervals, by utilizing the characteristics of Japan's national census, which is conducted every five years. When the obtained value is named "post-singleness point" and assembled, it becomes possible to get an overview of how many people get married in which period, for each generation.

    "Post-singleness point" & Unmarried ratio by Age group (%)

 [Men]  69-65  60-64  55-59  50-54  45-49  40-44  35-39  30-34  25-29 
         0.0    1.1    7.3   27.0   31.1
         0.4    0.7    2.5    9.1   27.8   27.7
         0.0    0.0    0.5    2.6   10.0   27.1   25.3
         0.5    0.7    1.1    1.8    4.2   11.6   24.0   23.3
         0.0    0.1    0.4    0.6    1.1    3.8   12.0   21.6   20.3
Unmarried3.8    5.9    9.7   14.0   17.3   21.9   30.9   47.7   72.6

 [Women]69-65  60-64  55-59  50-54  45-49  40-44  35-39  30-34  25-29
         0.1    0.6    2.5   13.6   47.1
         0.2    0.3    0.8    2.9   16.7   41.2
         0.0    0.1    0.2    0.8    3.9   20.5   37.0
         0.3    0.2    0.3    0.4    1.4    5.9   21.4   32.4
         0.0    0.1    0.2    0.1    0.7    1.6    8.0   21.4   28.0
Unmarried3.8    4.2    5.1    6.2    7.9   12.2   18.6   32.6   59.9

The lifelong unmarried ratio is a demographic notion and means the ratio of unmarried people at the age of 50. This definition is made because the percentage of childbirth becomes extremely lower as females' age of marriage becomes over 50. As for males, too, the percentage of marriage at the age of over 50 is low. To see the future marital activities of young generations, it is assumed that the "post-singleness point" of older generations in the last 5 years is accumulated. Namely, the unmarried ratio of males in their late 20s is now 72.6%, and so the post-singleness point of the early-30s generation is 21.6; that of the late-30s generation is 12.0; that of the early-40s generation is 3.8; that of the late-40s generation is 1.1; and that of the early-50s generation is 0.6. That is, the unmarried ratio decreases by as small as 39.1 points, so the remaining 33.5% will be single throughout their life. When the real unmarried ratio of people in their early 50s, and the above-estimated unmarried ratios of people in their 40s or younger are assembled and tabulated, the following table can be obtained.

   Lifelong unmarried ratio [%] 
   (the values for the late-40s or younger are estimated ones.)

       Early 50s  Late 40s  Early 40s  Late 30s  Early 30s  Late 20s 
Male     14.0       16.7      20.2       25.4      30.2       33.5
Female    6.2        7.8      11.4       16.2      22.2       28.1

"The summary of the results of the 12th basic survey of birth trends, the national survey regarding marriage and childbirth, and the survey of single people," which were carried out by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in 2002, mentions as follows: "It was found that the percentage of those who think that marriage is advantageous is 62.3% for unmarried males, and 69.4% for unmarried females; conversely, 33.1% of males and 26.3% of females consider that marriage is not advantageous. The percentage of those who do not feel advantage in marriage is increasing little by little for both males and females, and this is distinct for males." It is suggestive that the ratio of people who think that "marriage has no advantage" is nearly equal to the estimated lifelong unmarried ratio of the late 20s.

These surveys "estimated the situation of male-female relationships for each age group in each year, based on the structure of marital relations inferred from the national census and the situation of the interaction with the opposite sexes of unmarried people clarified from this survey." This is also intriguing.

Compared with 15 years ago, the ratio of people who "have beloved ones" or "are cohabiting with girl/boyfriends" has increased and those who "have no girl/boyfriend" also has increased, dividing male-female relationships into two extremes. When considering the fact that as many as 50% of males of 20 to 24 years old have no girlfriends in the midst of adolescence, I want to ask, "Are they so busy with their jobs?" and "How do they lead their daily life?"

In addition, with regard to the cohabitation experience, the following report also attracts attention: "The recent increase in the ratio of people of 25 to 29 years old who experienced cohabitation is distinct; in this survey, this ratio was 10.3% for males, and 10.0% for females, exceeding 10% for the first time. However, the ratio of unmarried couples of 25 to 29 years old who are still cohabiting was less than 3%; such people are still in the minority."

Kiyoshi Hiroshima, Professor of Faculty of Law & Literature, Shimane University, discussed the increasing unmarried ratio and the later marriage trend in his paper entitled, "Gender from the Demographic Perspective―the reasons and outlook of the increasing unmarried ratio and the later marriage trend," as follows: "Even if there are many difficulties, the current situation can be said to be the process of changing from social relationships, including marriage, to the relationship between independent individuals, and also the process for improving the social status of females."; "The process, called the second population transition in Europe and the U.S., has the same nature as the population change in Japan, but Japan is different from other countries where the cohabitation rate is increasing and the decline of birthrates is alleviated."; "If social changes further advance in Japan, it is expected, as mentioned above, that the later marriage trend and the increasing unmarried ratio will be mitigated as a whole, but it is difficult to forecast when such mitigation will start."

Producing offspring is an intrinsic behavior, but it can be understood that the current social situation in Japan does not allow it. However, I do not think that I am the only person who senses the fragility of young Japanese people when hearing the fact that 50%, or 38% of males and females in their 20s "have no girl/boyfriends." In addition, if as many as one fourth or one third of people are single for their entire life, it is necessary to drastically change social systems from the conventional ones, such as life security and nursing care for elderly people.

The following criticisms and issues were posted in the comment section of this blog: "One third is single! It's devastating. Japanese people may become extinct. They should have more will to live (Posted by Nobu)."; "Hardheaded, quiet craftsmen and honest, clumsy salaried workers dubbed company soldiers―such people of the generations of our fathers and grandfathers are similar in personality to contemporary otaku (geeks) and himote (nerds)."; "Even such kinds of people could get married normally in the past. However, in the present age, such people cannot get married for unknown reasons (Posted by Kakugo)."

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