Action 39. Dismantle a Taboo to Address the Declining Birthrate – End the Bias Against Unmarried Mothers!

The number of babies born in 2014 in Japan was a record low of 1,003,539 and the birthrate was 1.41, significantly lower than the 2.08 necessary to maintain the population. As a result, it is projected that the Japanese population will decrease to 95 million in 2050 and 47 million in 2100. The declining birthrate and aging population are the most serious issues facing Japan. We need to recognize this situation as one critical enough to shake the foundations of Japanese society.

1. Make Single Parenthood Socially Acceptable!
In France, after having dropped to 1.6, the birthrate started increasing again thanks to policy efforts and reached 2.01 in 2011. The characteristic feature unique to France is the large number of children born out of wedlock. While the proportion of children born outside of marriage in Japan is only 2.1%, in France it is 52.6%, more than half of the babies born. This increase is largely attributed to the use of the PACS system, under which couples in a de facto relationship have the same rights as those available to legally married couples, such as in relation to tax exemptions and social security.
It is also necessary for us in Japan to expand our views on marriage and family and create an environment where unmarried couples and single mothers and fathers can readily continue working while raising their children in order to achieve a society where unmarried people can have children.
2. Increase the Adoption Rate!
While there are couples who want children but cannot have them and other couples who are so desperate for children that they undergo lengthy infertility treatments, the number of abortions each year is 200,000, or equivalent to 20% of the annual number of births. This gap can be bridged by the adoption of children but the number of adoptions in Japan is only 1,500 per year. In the United States, it is estimated that, as of 2001, there were more than 120,000 adopted children. It is well known that Steve Jobs was adopted.
It has been reported that the number of couples who consider adopting a child after unsuccessful infertility treatment has been increasing. At present, most cases of plenary adoption are mediated in the form of foster parents by a Child Guidance Center. As an alternative to having a child for couples who cannot have their own children after infertility treatment is unsuccessful, the child adoption system should be used more effectively.
3. Implement Preferential Tax Treatment to Increase the Birthrate! Take Every Possible Policy Measure, such as Award Systems and Family Support Programs!
It is said that in France the family tax system, which reduces a family’s tax burden in line with the number of children, has significantly contributed to increasing the fertility rate. A system under which the more children they have, the greater the income tax exemption they are granted can serve as an incentive to encourage people to have children. Drastically preferential tax treatment for those having a third child would have a tremendous impact.
It would be a good idea to award parents who have raised a certain number of children. Their “social contribution” of providing society with more children should be appropriately appreciated.
In addition, about 60% of women who become mothers in Japan stop working. It is necessary to change the current situation where women have to choose between having children and continuing to work. Important measures to address this issue include an increase in daycare and after-school care programs and financial assistance. It is also important to accept diverse ways of working and to mobilize and liberalize the labor market more effectively.
4. Flip the Mindset by Calculating the Birthrate Per Man Instead of Per Woman!
What about changing our mindset and calculating the “number of births per man” or “the number of children a man raises over his lifetime”? The aim of this idea is to free women from the responsibility for the declining birthrate by changing the calculation basis so as to shift the awareness from women to men. Responsible men, then, would start considering their contribution to improving the birthrate. Thus there will be more efforts to support both unmarried single mothers and the adoption of children.