June 15, 2009

Japan's "family values"

Noting that "only 2 percent of Japanese births [are] to unmarried women," Half Sigma wonders if "Christian people see the irony that non-Christian Japan has much better family values than the United States?"

Except that with a birthrate of 1.34, it won't be long before Japan runs out of people to practice those family values on (not to mention the debilitating effects of a declining tax base on municipal budgets--California at a national level).

I predict that the population in Japan will continue to fall until, as Steve Sailer's "affordable family formation" theory stipulates, raising 2.1 children is no longer ruinously expensive. In cost-of-living terms, contemporary Japanese society is not "family friendly."

This is one reason why the crude marriage rate per 1000 population (2006) is 5.8 in Japan and 7.3 in the U.S. (highest in the G8).

The term "parasite single" refers to children who live with their parents well into adulthood in order to preserve what is a fairly modest standard of living compared to the U.S. Thus the threat of getting kicked out of the house becomes a big lever on behavior.

Besides the normal social mechanisms of shaming and conformity, which have Kryptonite strength even in postmodern Japan. But that's only half of it.

Worker productivity in Japan is 71 percent that of the U.S. This is mainly the fault of the white-collar sector. The typical American businessman cranks out as much "work" in seven hours as his Japanese counterpart does in ten. All that time spent at the office is not time spent at home.

That means less emphasis on family life--and less emphasis on quality-of-life family-centered consumables, which makes Japan’s export-driven economy more vulnerable to economic downturns elsewhere (like in the U.S.). And, of course, less time spent making more Japanese.

The same way grumpy old white men rhapsodize about the "good old days" (whenever those were), Japanese rhapsodize about the Tokugawa Era (1603-1868). The population during that period remained fairly constant at 20-30 million (three times that of Great Britain in 1800).

The present population of Japan (127 million, 146,000 square miles, 12 percent arable land) could fall by a full third and still be the same as Germany (82 million, 138,000 square miles, 34 percent arable land).

But the other deeply-rooted problem is the secondary education system. Beginning with high school entrance exams, kids face a series of test-score death matches that make NCLB look like a game of Tiddlywinks, the training for which no parent trusts to public education alone.

So I don't see Japan's birth rate rising until the cost of living falls to affordable levels and it becomes socially acceptable for parents to not impoverish themselves funding the private tutors and cram schools that constitute Japan's vast educational-industrial complex.

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# posted by Blogger Joe
6/15/2009 9:07 AM   
I strong suspect that the illegitimate birth rate has little to do with religion and everything to do with society disapproval and real penalties for violating that disapproval.

(This is also the time to confess that I still don't know what "family values" really means beyond "it means what we say it means whenever politically convenient." Throw in the word "traditional" and the phrase becomes even more meaningless.)
# posted by Blogger Ken
6/15/2009 9:48 AM   
The family registry system in Japan is behind the low number of births outside of wedlock. It has nothing to do with values and everything to do with the legal status of those born out of wedlock.