Matchmaking Ads to Boost Birth Rate in Japan Alarmed by a falling birth rate and rapidly ageing population, Japanese policymakers are thinking about allowing TV ads for matchmaking agencies in the hope that an increase in couples will result in more kids. Japan’s population shrank in the year to October for the first time since 1945, heightening worries about economic decline due to a smaller workforce supporting a growing number of pensioners.

“One cause of the falling birth rate is later marriages or no marriage at all, so we see promoting marriage as one good way of dealing with this problem.”

According to a poll released last week by the Cabinet Office, only 48 percent of respondents said Japan was an easy place to raise children, compared to Sweden at 98 percent and the United States with 78 percent. No specific reasons were given but the cost of child raising, a lack of child care facilities, and attitudes that make it hard for women to return to work after taking time off to raise children, are frequently cited to explain the falling birth rate.

Cash incentives aren’t enough to lift fertility The German Bundestag currently is considering reforms designed to make it economically easier for women to bear children. Under the proposed measures, backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, the government would pay women 67 percent of their salaries, with a ceiling of 18,000 euros, or about $23,000, for a 12-month parental leave. Men are eligible for a two-month stipend, for a total of 14 months per couple.

Boosting birth rates is easy if you solve the underlying problem. The underlying problem is young people who feel they cannot afford to have children. One-time payments are not going to solve the problem. Reducing costs and offering some measure of security will make all the difference.

Where can a couple in their mid-20’s afford to:

  1. Buy a house in a safe neighborhood near decent schools.
  2. Afford health care and all other family-related expenses, with only one parent working.
  3. Be reasonably confident of a steady income.
  4. Raise two or more children without fear of the additional expense of each child.

Somewhere in the last few decades, the need for both parents to work - just to get by - became the norm. This makes it harder to raise a family. If both parents want to work, to get ahead financially (or simply to get older children through college), this should be a choice, not a necessity. I would bet that if you measured birth rates within the United States, you would find lower rates where costs were higher.

Young people do not have any control over these factors.