Childless couples are 'selfish', senior Japanese politician says

Country facing dramatic population decline in coming decades

Tom Embury-Dennis
Wednesday 27 June 2018 13:47 BST
Babies and their mothers take part in a baby crawling competition in Yokohama
Babies and their mothers take part in a baby crawling competition in Yokohama (AFP/Getty)

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Louise Thomas

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Japanese couples who decide not to have children are “selfish”, a senior politician has said amid a push by the government to increase the country’s birth rate.

Experts are warning of a “demographic time bomb” in Japan, with the population set to dramatically decline in the coming decades due to a low fertility rate and an increasing number of people living longer.

The issue has forced the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to vow to raise the birth rate and increase the number of women in the workplace, in an attempt to stave off what could become an economic crisis.

“During and after the war when [people] were living on the edge of starvation, nobody said it’s better not to have children because it would be too much trouble,” Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said during a speech in Tokyo.

He added: “These days, some people have a selfish idea that it is better not to give birth to children. In order for everyone [in Japan] to be happy, we should have many children and develop our country.”

The 79-year-old's comments come amid struggles by the government to make good on Mr Abe’s promise to meet demand for childcare places.

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In a recent poll, 70 per cent of parents said they would like to have more children, but felt having larger families would lead to financial worries and a worse work-life balance.

A Japanese think tank estimated there were 340,000 children unable to gain admission to childcare facilities, according to The Japan Times.

Last month, another LDP politician, Kanji Kato, caused controversy when he revealed he told newlyweds at wedding receptions they “must raise at least three children”.

Also in May, Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary-general of the LDP, said fathers raising young children was an “unwelcome idea”, and that it should be left to mothers.

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