NewsWire: 10/15/2020

  • Japan is amping up its nationwide "marriage bonus" program in hopes of getting more municipalities and couples to participate. Starting next April, the bonus amount that newly married couples will be eligible for will double, and the government promises to provide more financial support to municipalities that adopt the program. (The Japan Times)
    • NH: Starting in 2018, young Japanese couples could receive up to ¥300,000 (or $2,800) for getting married. They simply had to be under the age of 35 and make less than ¥4.8 million (or $45,000) annually. The hope was to encourage marriage and, in turn, increase the birthrate. 
    • Now the program has been updated. Starting in April 2021, the age limit will be raised to 40, the income restriction raised to ¥5.4 million (or $51,000), and the maximum payment raised to ¥600,000 (or $5,600).
    • As of now, only a small number of municipalities (15%) offer the "marriage bonus." Towns that provide the one-time stipend currently have to pay for half the cost. But now the central government has agreed to pay for two-thirds of the payment in a bid to increase participation.
    • I’ve written extensively about Japan’s ongoing efforts to raise the fertility rate. Many of these efforts were the brainchild of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Under his leadership, the TFR did rise to 1.45 in 2015, yet has been sinking ever since. (See “Japan Fertility Crash: Sharpest Drop in 30 Years” and "Japan's Birthrate Hits a New Low.") Nevertheless, the government isn't abandoning its pronatal crusade. Yoshihide Suga, Japan's new prime minister, has already declared that raising the fertility rate is a top priority of his government. He has recently laid out plans for public insurance to cover fertility treatments.
    • But despite the government's best efforts, the cultural, economic, and generational drivers behind Japan's low TFR are deeply embedded. (See "Japanese Women Are Not Rushing to the Altar.") They are unlikely to be reversed unless there is a dramatic cultural and political change. And the technocratic leadership of PM Suga doesn’t seem like it will be the catalyst to such a revolution.