Is it possible to raise fertility to replacement level through policy efforts? The case of Japan

Ryuzaburo Sato, National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan
Motomi Beppu, National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan

Japan is now entering a new era of population policy. The government has recently expressed a TFR (total fertility rate) target of 1.8 in the short term and 2.1 in the long term. This is epoch-making, because the government had previously been cautious in explicitly showing its pro-natal stance, although the TFR has been below 1.5 since 1995. However, from the demographic viewpoint, we are skeptical about whether realization of the targets is possible. In this paper, we discuss five points and conclude that it is very difficult to increase the TFR to the target level of 2.1, or even 1.8, by policy efforts alone. The five reasons for this are as follows: (1) As Japan is a democratic state, the government is not allowed to carry out direct population policies; therefore, only limited options are available. (2) The main mechanism of low fertility in Japan is later or fewer marriages, and marriage-promoting measures are difficult to put into practice. (3) There appears to be historical and cultural background factors that have impacted the very low fertility and later/fewer marriages. (4) When both old and new types of partnership and reproduction patterns are mixed together, adoption of some policy measures may tend to lower fertility temporally or transitionally. (5) There are no models of the country of replacement level fertility among advanced industrial countries under the modern socioeconomic system. In this paper, we highlight the particular situation of Japan, which probably differs from that of Western countries. We indicate the limitations of pro-natal policies in Japan, and the necessity to consider adaptation policies that take into account population decline and hyper-aging.

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Presented in Session 116: Policy and fertility