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But there’s another, simpler explanation for the country’s low birth rate, one that has implications for the U.
S.: Japan’s birth rate may be falling because there are fewer good opportunities for young people, and especially men, in the country’s economy.
“This is a major new development in Japan’s employment paradigm, as new graduates find it increasingly difficult to get a foothold on the career ladder as regular employees,” Kingston and Machiko Osawa, a professor at Japan Women's University, write in “Risk and Consequences: The Changing Japanese Employment Paradigm,” an essay in In a culture that places such an emphasis on men being breadwinners, this has serious implications for marriage and childbearing.
About 30 percent of irregular workers in their early 30s are married, compared to 56 percent of full-time corporate employees, according to Kingston.
“Japan has this idea that the man is supposed to get a regular job,” said Nishida.
Hong Kong being such global place, filled with so many expats married or in a relationship with individuals of Asian descent, my husband and I “fit in” again. Just the other day, I was waiting for my husband while he got his hair cut.
The salon was located in a very “expat heavy” part of Hong Kong, and while most of the workers at the salon were Chinese, much of the clientele were not.
But it is more of an obstacle for marriage if a man doesn’t have a good job—roughly 70 percent of women quit working after they have their first child, and depend on their husband’s salary for some time.
Women in Japan’s big cities say they’re getting tired of the lack of available men.
Since the postwar years, Japan had a tradition of “regular employment,” as labor experts commonly call it, in which men started their careers at jobs that gave them good benefits, dependable raises, and the understanding that if they worked hard, they could keep their jobs until retirement.
Now, according to Jeff Kingston, a professor at Temple University’s Japan campus and the author of several books about Japan, around 40 percent of the Japanese workforce is “irregular,” meaning they don’t work for companies where they have stable jobs for their whole careers, and instead piece together temporary and part-time jobs with low salaries and no benefits.
(Such temporary workers are counted as employed in government statistics.) Only about 20 percent of irregular workers are able to switch over to regular jobs at some point in their careers.