A new Japanese government survey shows record numbers of young people in Japan have opted for the single lifestyle, citing such issues as money, difficulties in finding suitable partners, and simply enjoying being singletons.
The survey is carried out every five years and was conducted by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (NIPSSR), a Tokyo-based think tank. Part of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the think tank conducted the survey in June 2010, basing its results on answers from around 7,000 single men and women, primarily aged 18 to 34.
According to the latest survey, 61 percent of single men aged 18 to 34 have no girlfriend. The largest jump in single unmarried men is in the 20 to 24 years old group, increasing 10 percentage points from the last survey five years earlier, Wall Street Journal reports.
Of the women surveyed, 45 percent are unmarried, unattached and are happy remaining so for the time being. As with single men, the largest group is in the 20 to 24 years old bracket.
A rapidly aging population, combined with one of the lowest birth rates on the planet, will see Japan’s population shrink, by some estimates to as low as 64 million by the end of the century, down from 127 million in 2005.
Complex in its nature, the growing singletons movement can be connected to gender equality issues and politics, as well. After the 2005 government survey, the World Economic Forum found Japanese women were ranked 52nd and 54th, respectively, out of 58 developed and emerging countries, according to Time.
Although more Japanese women have entered the work force, rather than taking on the role of okusan - meaning “person in the back of the house,” a label commonly attached to wives in Japan - they were among the first to lose jobs during the country’s economic meltdown in 1992.
Masahiro Yamada, a sociologist at Gakugei University, has given the growing number of single Japanese women a unique label, “Parasite Single,” Big Think reports. Yamada notes 90 percent of these single women live with their parents, and “use their rent-free incomes to [shop].” Although many of the women hold jobs which are not prestigious, they are not stressful and “give them enough spending money to buy designer handbags, shoes, clothes and jewelry.”
Japanese men often see their workaholic culture creating late-night drinking sessions with their bosses and a failure to join their peers could stunt career prospects.
During a party conference in 2005, the Liberal Democratic Party’s then-secretary-general Shinzo Abe was critical of gender equality. “A [gender-free] concept which ignores the value of marriage and the family is linked to the destruction of culture,” Time reports.
Even more blunt in the Time piece was Minoru Nakamura, a popular assemblyman, who noted, “Pitiable women who direct their dissatisfaction at being ignored by men toward society ... are truly laughable. Not yet finished, he added: “It’s also strange how these women, compared to their peers, are uglier.”
Whatever the reasons, the new survey also revealed 23 percent of women and more than a quarter of the men were not even looking for a partner. Many of the single women found single life better than how they imagined being married would be.
Also revealing in the survey, according to BBC, more than a quarter of unmarried, single men and women between the ages of 35 and 39 said they had never had sex.