Workaholic generation told to chill out and get breeding

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The Independent Online

He enjoys his freedom, staying out late and drinking with friends. She's a company woman, bent on building a career before a family. Both are too busy even to think about marriage, let alone children.

He enjoys his freedom, staying out late and drinking with friends. She's a company woman, bent on building a career before a family. Both are too busy even to think about marriage, let alone children.

That's the portrait of an increasing proportion of Japan's twenty and thirtysomethings – and it threatens to become a serious problem, according to a government report released yesterday. Recommending "structural reform in lifestyle", the report urges young Japanese to work less and have more babies, or risk engendering a demographic disaster that threatens to undercut the nation's already sagging economy.

Japan's plunging birth rate is the root of the trouble. As the workforce continues to shrink, the health and retirement costs of the ageing population become increasingly difficult to meet.

The Lifestyle White Paper, commissioned by the office of the Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, explores ways of increasing the birth rate by making married life with children more attractive to a disaffected younger generation.

The report found that marriage and child-rearing was considered unfulfilling by 52 per cent of the country's young women and 40 per cent of men.

It proposes tackling such attitudes with "lifestyle structural reforms", a nod to the structural overhaul that Mr Koizumi is planning to rescue Japan's sinking economy.

The goal would be to free people from Japan's corporate grind of 18-hour working days and mandatory drinks with the boss so they can better balance family and career.

The report says: "Wrestling with this is an important part of dealing with the serious problem of stagnating childbirth." It recommends policies that reduce working hours, increase free time for the family and improve access to childcare facilities.

The high cost of raising and educating children, demands of the job and climbing divorce rates are just some of the reasons Japanese young people see matrimony as "limiting their freedom" and children as "a burden", the study concluded.

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