A few days ago, Japan’s prime minister issued a dire warning about the country’s demographic crisis, saying it was “on the brink of not being able to maintain social functions” due to the birth rate drop. “It is now or never,” she pointed out, referring to the fact that either this fall is reversed or the future will be much grayer. The government has been launching different initiatives to boost births, some of which we have summarized in Magnet. Unfortunately, many of these programs have not had much of an impact on the numbers, which continue to decline.
However, there is a town that has succeeded, that has managed to boost its birth rate to three children per family.
But before starting to talk about the people to whom the fertility gods have smiled, it is necessary to comment on the current context of the Asian country. Fewer than 800,000 children were born in Japan last year, the lowest number since there are records comparable. The country also has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. These trends have led to a growing demographic crisis, with an aging society, a shrinking workforce, and insufficient numbers of young people to salvage a stagnant economy.
The total fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman is expected to bear during her lifetime, would need to be above 2.1 for Japan to retain its population. As Elon Musk recently said on Twitter: “Unless something changes so that the birth rate exceeds the death rate, Japan will eventually cease to exist.”
Because? Experts point out that some of the factors behind this low birth rate are the country’s high cost of living, limited space and lack of childcare support in cities. On the other hand, attitudes towards marriage and family formation have also changed in recent years, with more couples putting both off, sometimes frustrated by work pressure and economic pessimism.
That is why the government has launched several initiatives to address the population decline, including new policies to improve child care services and housing facilities for families with children. Some rural towns have even started paying couples who live there to have children.
Until a few years ago, Nagi, a town of about 5,700 people, was famous for having inspired the mystical “hidden leaf village” of ninjas depicted in the manga series. Naruto. It now attracts local media for its rising birth rate. Visitors, including the President of Japan, come to town in search of a valuable secret: how to have more babies.
Women in Nagi they have an average of almost three children. In 2019, it reached 2.95. That figure stands out in a country where the average is closer to one than two. Japan as a whole sits near 1.3, with Tokyo averaging 1.15, Osaka Prefecture 1.31, Aichi Prefecture 1.45, and Fukuoka Prefecture 1.44.
How have they achieved it?
The main reason is that he has put the fight against Japan’s low birth rate at the top of his agenda and the families receive various benefits to raise children. Parents pay no more than €420 a month for their first child’s daycare, half that price for the second child and free for the third. Nor do they pay for school books and supplies. In addition, they receive the equivalent of €1,000 per year for each child in secondary school. Caretakers are also assisted by elderly women who look after the children for a nominal fee.
On the other hand, a financial assistance program has been introduced so that they can live in houses with three bedrooms and a living room, dining room and kitchen for a monthly fee of only €345. And the city also began to cover all the medical expenses of the minors.
Although the truth is that, as mentioned in this article in The Wall Street Journal, it took two decades to raise the birth rate and required sacrifices such as cutting public works projects. The necessary funds were raised by reducing the number of municipal officials and members of the municipal assembly.
The region’s birth figures have not taken long to arouse the interest of neighboring cities and tourism in the country, who are already traveling on pilgrimage to Nagi, as if this “miracle” could catch on. But as visitors began to show up to witness Nagi’s magic in large groups, the city council began billing delegations the equivalent of €73 per person. That is, to enter the town as a tourist you have to pay.
Of course, if you are a young person who wants to move to the city and have children, the story is reversed: the city offers the equivalent of up to €4,400 for 20-year-old couples who register their marriage in the city and up to €2,200. for couples of 30 years.