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Japanese Companies Tell Employees to Make More Babies

November 25, 2008 01:27 PM
by Rachel Balik
To combat Japan’s declining birthrate, companies are urging workers to spend more time with their families, hoping that procreation will increase.

Japanese Workers Urged to Boost Falling Birthrate

In recent years, the Japanese lexicon has shifted to include a new word, “karoshi,” which means dying from overwork. Not only are individuals suffering from their commitments to their jobs, but they are also failing to have children, resulting in a population decline for the country. Married Japanese couples report that they are often too tired for sex, or that it is “boring,” Bloomberg news reports. To combat the problem, Japanese companies are now enforcing reduced work hours and urging employees to spend time at home.

Companies such as Nippon Oil Corp. now tell workers that they may not work on weekends, and those who wish to work after 7 p.m. must acquire special permission. Nippon organized mandatory “family weeks” where employees are literally told to go home, play with their children and make more babies. At 8 p.m., the company plays Disney songs to encourage family behavior. Unfortunately, some workers chose to go to bars with coworkers rather than spend time with their families, suggesting that the problems may be deeper than simply long workdays.

For many Japanese women, marriage and childbirth have become less of a priority. In particular, Japanese women want to have careers, and have expressed that they prefer to work and not have to take care of both a husband and a baby. One woman told The Washington Post that all the Japanese men she had met wanted their wife to be a mother, and that having a family would be just a second job and a burden. Although married women continue to have children at a steady rate, statistics show that more women are opting out of marriage entirely which, according to demographers, is the primary explanation for the declining birthrate.

One woman interviewed by The Post expressed a desire to have a husband who would not just work long hours and expect her to manage his household. Overall, women say that they will wait for a partner who will share equally in the responsibilities of homemaking and child-rearing, or not have children at all.

Related Topic: Declining population affects seniors

The birthrate in Japan is so low that many senior citizens end up without members of the younger generation to care for them. In response, Japanese nursing homes have implemented a robotic seal, Paro, to combat loneliness in the elderly. Paro feels like a real pet and helps the elderly connect mentally and physically with a life-like object, offering entertainment and brain stimulation.

Paro has been imported to America, but the need for a robotic toy is far greater in Japan, where those over 65 will make up one-third of the population by 2050. The implication is that there will be a dearth of young people available to care for elderly relatives, so the country has turned to technology for help.

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