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"Now is the last chance to take action on this problem," said Masanao Ozaki, the governor of Kochi prefecture about 500 miles west of Tokyo.
"I'm deeply concerned as to whether young workers in the future will be able to take on such a huge burden." Since the money earmarked for the birth rate program will last only one year, local officials want a longer-term commitment by the government to get a handle on demographic trends that have been building for decades. As in the Western countries, Japanese people are marrying later in their lives (if at all) and younger women are putting off marriage and children in pursuit of their careers.
The economic malaise that has gripped Japan over the past 25 years has also played a serious role in dissuading marriage and child-rearing.
Interestingly, despite the dramatic changes Japan has endured over the past four decades, some of its moral traditions have not been affected; for example, only 2 percent of Japanese children are born out of wedlock, versus a figure of 41 percent for the United States, according to Japan’s Welfare Ministry.
By 2026, social security costs are expected to climb to 24.4 percent of GDP, up from 22.8 percent in fiscal 2012, the country’s welfare ministry projected.
Demographic shifts and new technologies are changing how, why and where people work and the requirements and expectations of the workforce.